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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Satire and Parody

There is a fine line between satire and parody. Satire is a mostly intellectual exercise, one that lampoons convention while forwarding a separate agenda, frequently antithetical to that of its target. Parody, on the other hand, is about love, even devotion. Even at its snarkiest, parody tears down only to elevate. Its message is inclusive rather than isolating--We understand and appreciate you; here are some jokes at your expense. 

Put another way, it has been said that sarcasm--pointless and legless satire-- is the lowest form of wit, while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

[We wax parodic every time we say, "Best. News. Ever." Popular culture in the postmodern (post-postmodern? post-post-postmodern?) era, quite naturally, parodies parody.]
George Bernard Shaw wrote satire. Christopher Durang writes parody, or he at least he did with "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge," produced by New City Stage this December on the Mainstage at the Adrienne Theatre. 

In Mrs. Bob..., Durang turns Dickens' classic upside down, taking its mute Mrs. Cratchit and reimagining her along a Durangian spectrum--put-upon, misanthropic, and alcoholic. That such a character invokes both pathos and admiration is a credit to Durang's loving touch, but also to the magnetism and charisma of actress Kittson O'Neill in the New City Stage production. 

What to make of this parodic play with songs--not quite a Musical--in an era of instantaneous ironic distancing? How to square the barbs of the playwright with the his obvious appreciation of his source material? A single oblique reference to "the law firm of Havisham, Happ, and Fagin," invokes elation from Dickens aficionados, but passes over the unaware as so much background noise--they're there for the fart jokes! And all are welcome. 

Kevin Rodden is an Artistic Associate with New City Stage Company, and will appear for the first time with New City Stage with Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge