Silent Night of the Lambs

8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 6 p.m. Sun.; through Dec. 27

Le Chat Noir, 715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812;

Tickets $26 Fri.-Sat., $21 Sun. (all prices include $5 bar credit)

Friday's show is sponsored by the Mystic Krewe of Sattricon. Call 525-4498 for that show only.

The cast of Running With Scissors is running through a rehearsal of Silent Night of the Lambs, a holiday-wrapped Silence of the Lambs set in the North Pole. Members of the wig-obsessed company are spread around Le Chat Noir, reading lines and making notes about props. Though he normally plays starlets like Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Peterson is a cannibalistic Santa, the story's Hannibal Lecter, waiting at the edge of the tiny stage in a figurative cell.

  Dorian Rush, who has been in all of Scissors' productions, plays Clarice Starling, rookie FBI agent and reindeer daughter of Rudolph. She is an ugly duckling in the story, trying to overcome an overworked Jodi Foster drawl and "lateralized lisp" as she pursues a serial killer known as the "Skinner." In the original film scene, Starling walks past a prisoner who hisses that he can smell her vagina. Here, that prisoner is a screechy Martha Stewart.

  "What did Martha say to you?" Peterson asks, turning Anthony Hopkins' menacing, emotionless tone into something selfish and disaffected.

  "She said she's going to make mincemeat out of my ring ding," Starling says.

  "Your what?" Peterson says, starting to ham up Hannibal Claus.

  "My coochie," Starling says, her voice wavering. "My ho ho."

  Rush is going rogue, veering off script. Everyone in the room perks up at her slow but deliberate progression.

  "My ladyfinger," she says, wide-eyed, improvising to the filthy delight of everyone in the room. "My mutton well."

  Rehearsal comes to a laughing halt.

  The production is coming together just in time as members work in other shows and shoot some scenes on video, a frequent feature of Scissors productions. But the last-minute approach is intentional.

  "Part of the reason our audience comes to see us is the chance things will go terribly awry," says longtime Scissors organizer and de facto director Richard Read. "People like to see this crew scramble. They're all great on their feet."

  Longtime members include Peterson, props maven Liz Zibilich, Jack Long, Lisa Picone, set designer and actor Brad Caldwell and Bob Edes Jr., who is currently starring in I Am My Own Wife.

  For nine years, the group has staged an installment of Grenadine McGunkle's Double-Wide Christmas, an annual invitation to McGunkle's (Rush) holiday party at the Everlasting Arms Motor Park. Silent Night of the Lambs was written by Ryan Landry, a New Englander who has authored several of the company's campy parodies and mashups. The group writes its own material as well, including film-TV sitcom hybrids The Titanic Adventures of the Love Boat Poseidon and Carrie's Facts of Life. And they adapt Landry's shows for New Orleans audiences, purging Boston and Providence references and adding local elements. Scissors' productions have included many drag remakes of cult and classic films (Valley of the Dolls, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). Taking on Christmas isn't breaking new ground in terms of sacred cows.

  "I love doing holiday shows," Read says. "The idea of a bent, screwed, twisted take on Christmas is appealing to us. And a lot of our audience likes it, too."