Your holiday frolics will not be complete unless you pry yourself into the New Playwrights' Theater, where "Nightmare!" is on view Wednesday through Sunday nights at 8. It's a gem of crisp, daft satire.
Why does sweet Bambi take to vodka? What turns Henry, star athlete of St. Jo-Ann's High, into a transvestite who makes Bambi pimp so he can own the latest Bill Blass collection? Will Mother Angellotti win the piano concerto contest in time to get her laundry iron back from the pawnbroker? Will Father Paul break out of jail? Is this the curse of the leering Gypsies?
Though there is a cast of only seven, there are scores of characters in what writer-compose Tim Grundmann accurately labels "A Burlesque in Two Acts." This must be the sort of craziness one reads about of the old musicals, when whole shows were devoted to mocking pretentious ventures, when Harrigan and Hart were the land's top comics. Burlesque then meant making fun of, not stripping.
Grundmann is joined by director Ken Bloom to reform the team which created NPT's less ingenious "Sirocco" musicals. In the old, redbrick gym at 1742 church St. NW, designer Russell Metheny has outdone himself with a two-level frame for a two-piece and a revolving stage which becomes anything it is said to be.
One delights in the ingenious theatrical skills which keep this "Nightmare!" spinning. The story line twists to dart swift, never overextended digs into our commercialized, wickedly childish civilization. There is the wit to imply, not to hammer.
Such simplicity reveals NPT's basic grasp of theater: make-believe. A policemen's badge transforms one of Mary Kay McGregor's costumes. A light beam from Tomm Tomlinson becomes a moon or Milan.
Debra Carruti and Gardner Hathaway, as Bambi and Henry, set the tone of dry satire immediately, never overreaching. Tanis Roach and Chris Kaufmann, stretching their ages, are madly poised as the laundress and the priest. Forming the Trio, A. David Johnson, Jan Frederick Shiffman and divine Barbara Rappaport are busy madcaps of high order.
Perhaps "Nightmare," can be taken seriously as litmus paper on which to test your acquaintances. If they aren't amused by the surprises, drop 'em. They're not our kind.