Theater review: ‘Bernstein Family Christmas’ at The Magnetic Theatre

NAUGHTY LIST: Tracey Johnston-Crum plays boozy Judy Bernstein in 'The 34th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular'  — an adults-only holiday tradition.
NAUGHTY LIST: Tracey Johnston-Crum plays boozy Judy Bernstein in 'The 34th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular' — an adults-only holiday tradition. Photo courtesy Magnetic Theatre

Wild, wicked and wonderful — that’s The 34th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular, onstage through Friday, Dec. 22, at The Magnetic Theatre in Asheville’s River Arts District.

This annual, R-rated holiday comedy, now in its eighth year (despite what its title suggests) continues pushing the envelope in ways almost beyond imagination. It’s not family-friendly or for anyone who is offended by supposed drug use, depictions of drunkenness, same-sex marriage, adult situations or any number of other topics.

But, for those who enjoy this type of crazy humor, it’s side-splitting comic fun. Many performances sold out before opening night.

Lucia Del Vecchio, the show’s director, also helped write this year’s iteration with Jim Julien, Peter Lundblad and Genevieve Packer. It’s presented as a satirical sendup of the holiday-themed, TV variety specials of yore, with the Bernstein clan playing their hearts out in a series of skits and clever commercials for area businesses.

Most of the Bernstein characters and cast are back for this 2017 production — Tracey Johnston-Crum as boozy Judy; Darren Marshall as her foil, Justin; Glenn Reed as stoner Jimbo; and Erik Moellering as Jimbo’s flamboyant Latin husband, Joaquin. Missing this year is sister Jamaica, but in her place is a character only called Air Bnber,  played by newcomer Sarah Felmet, who has moved into the Bernstein house.

As usual, Justin and Judy are forever fighting, and Jimbo is toking his lungs out when not flirting with Joaquin. Some of the Air Bnber’s actions wind up powering the story.

At the center of the script is a séance intended to conjure up the spirit of electrocuted cousin Jerry, but instead has unexpected results for the Bernsteins.

The skits include a poke or two at Donald Trump, unhappy reindeer, a self-help Santa who ends up on a rant about fallen celebrities, and the appearance of an overgrown baby Jesus, portrayed, as usual by Marshall in a diaper. There’s even a mention of disgraced ‘Today” host Matt Lauer, which shows how quickly the Magnetic crew can react to current events.

The cast displays a strong range of talent. Johnston-Crum and Marshall are in the spotlight, as expected, with solid support from Reed and Moellering, while Felmet holds her own and offers up a surprise twist.

Del Vecchio keeps this locomotive on the rails. The action is amplified by the intimate Magnetic playhouse, and the Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular remains Asheville’s must-see holiday romp.

WHAT: The 34th Annual  Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Friday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 9 and 16, at 10 p.m. $25 (most shows were sold out at press time)

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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