Move over, Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe. There's a new(ish) satirical law firm on the block, with a celebrity paternity case fit for Gawker or TMZ. In Wisemen, Mary Christmas has a bouncing baby boy, but her virginal husband Joseph is pretty sure it isn't his. ("The only hump he ever had was on his camel," says one skeptic.) Mary concurs, but instead of copping to copulation with any of the likely suspects—including gangsta E. Bunny, a neighbor, and maybe even Joseph's own shrink—she pins the pecker on God Himself.
WISEMEN ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, acttheatre.org. $15â€“$18. Opens Tues., Dec. 13. Runs 8 p.m. Tues.â€“Thurs. Ends Dec. 22.
In response, since Mary insists she's the wronged party, Joseph hires the Wisemen Law Firm to find the child's real father. What ensues in this musical holiday revue is goofball humor, rap, klezmer, puns (some creaky, some smart), and rapid-fire dialogue.
If Wisemen sounds familiar, you may have seen it at the Tractor in 2006, when the show was called Holiday Bizarre: A Jewish Christmas. Created by David Bestock (of Wing-It Productions and Jet City Improv) and composer Eli Rosenblatt, the production has since toured to Portland and New York. This year, Bestock explained before a recent rehearsal, new characters and songs have been added, the script's been substantially overhauled (including a new ending), and a live band will accompany the production in ACT's Bullitt Cabaret. Thus the new name for what's almost a new show.
As I watch the four-man cast struggle to master intricate, tongue-twisting new lines and mind-boggling "Who's on First" ricochet routines, certain character outlines emerge. (Everyone plays multiple roles, including Bestock as attorney Goldberg and the Pope.) Ben Harris' portrayal of Mary as a randy, lip-smacking Real Housewives of New Jersey caricature is just the tip of the show's irreverence iceberg. Colin Smith's Joseph is the whiniest and wimpiest of cuckolds. Evil CEO Santa, played by husky, full-throated Gavin Cummins (who also portrays lawyer Nicolai Frankenstein as a Jewish/Russian mobster) enjoys abusing his power through "Naughty or nice?" phone sex. So naturally he's the judge in the paternity trial.
The tone ranges from witty to substantive to crass, always with the intent to skewer the commercialization of Christmas. The lyrics to one number go "Christmas ain't about what's true, Jew/It's about money-makin' for the North Pole crew/So step aside, get out of the way/'Cause Santa's got to get paid today." It's not the sort of Yuletide carol you'll hear sung outside Pacific Place this holiday season, but Bestock says he's not too worried about offending his audience's sensibilities, post–South Park and all. (His follow-up musical comedy in progress is to be called Easter in Egypt).
Yet beneath the shtick, Bestock emphasizes, Wisemen does have a point. Alluding to those recent protests in Westlake Park, so near the theater, he says its motto might be "Occupy ACT."