After two years of preparation and widespread anticipation from the public, The Magnetic Field finally opened its doors Wednesday — though sitting at the bar, you would have thought it had been open for years. Despite the large crowd, there was a noticeable lack of fanfare surrounding the grand opening, with customers and employees seemingly going about business as usual.
There was one obvious indicator of an opening, however, when patrons filed into the narrow corridor that is The Magnetic Theater for the debut of The 27th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular, leaving the café/bar a deserted, lonely space, and filling the unadorned, black-box theater nearly to capacity.
As the lights dimmed, the crude, decidedly un-PC performance began with a monologue by Jimmy Berstein (Mondy Carter) who was quickly joined by an overweight, diaper-clad baby Jesus (Darren Marshall), and for the next hour and a half nothing was sacred. The show is a spoof of holiday variety specials of old — complete with commercial interludes — but be warned, the humor is far from family-friendly.
Taking aim at a range of political, religious and social themes, the first half of the Christmas Spectacular was slightly disappointing, with skits like “Keeping You Safe” — a witless jab at the TSA — and “Song Stylings of Judy Bernstein” — a juvenile take on “Silver Bells” — gunning for cheap laughs and falling short of clever. However, “the end of the beginning of the show” made a quick recovery with “Union Local 715,” a hilarious glimpse at unionized elves preparing to strike that reversed the momentum of the performance and kept the audience eager to make their way back from intermission.
Upon returning, the cast — which also includes Tracey Johnston-Crum (Judy Bernstein), Erik Moellering (Jerry Bernstein), John Crutchfield (Jake Bernstein) and Trinity Smith (Jenny Bernstein) — continued the hilarity with “Tom Waits for Jews,” which included a spot-on impersonation of the singular performer/actor rambling on about a more realistic portrayal of Superman, followed immediately by “Ding Dong … I Wonder Who That Could Be,” a rotating guest spot filled with a forceful narrative of holiday disaster by Downtown Books and News manager Julian Vorus. Already, the second half of the Christmas Spectacular had far exceeded the laughs of its predecessor, but just in case there was any doubt, the show closed with a side-splitting look at reindeer on drugs entitled “Magic Corn,” perhaps the most entertaining moment of the entire evening.
Despite some obvious (and childish) humor, The 27th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular features superb acting from some of Asheville’s best, and it’s a welcome break from the often stressful and far too uptight holiday season. Honestly, how can you not like a Christmas show full of cross dressing, sexual promiscuity and jokes about dysfunctional families?