Plano — “Bop” is the closest word to suggest the sound Betty Foster makes after certain expressive words in Santa Claus vs. The Martians, presented by Camp Death Productions at Rover Dramawerks in Plano. This hilariously campy Christmas tale is in its third go-around. Based on an adaptation of the 1964 b-movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Dallas writer/director Andi Allen got a loving push from friends after viewing the movie together and realized it was her theatrical duty to turn this into a live production about four years ago, first produced by Level Ground Arts.
And with that, the sidesplitting fun began.
The play tells the story of Martians invading the North Pole and kidnapping Santa Claus (Steve Roberts). They bring him and the two Foster kids (Betty & Billy) with them back to Mars where they meet Kimar and Momar’s children, who are coincidentally the same age as the Foster children: 10 and 8. Voldar schemes to annihilate Santa Claus but is blocked by Kimar, and the sweet-hearted Droppo snags a Santa coat and fattens up by eating too many “dessert pills.” The show concludes with a silly song featuring the whole cast that is reminiscent of the Brady Bunch’s “Keep on Movin,” or something from the Partridge Family.
The show is two hours of several different types of funny; you’ll find yourself sitting on two beats within the audience reactive pendulum—either a gigantic smile or an LLOL (literal laugh out loud—because LOL isn’t quite enough). The play combines slapstick moments with perfectly timed comedic bits—as well as some light-hearted jokes for the kids mixed with witty sexual innuendo for the adults.
The ensemble is pitch-perfect, with one scene-stealer being Michael Moore, who plays Mrs. Claus in drag. Mrs. Claus skates into a scene like a 1970’s Christmas angel, tosses some snowy flakes on the Foster kids, and then exits swiftly as if something from a campy psychedelic dream. The kids respond with either a very long and purposefully bad laugh, or by trying to exit down imaginary stairs, knocking into each other repeatedly until they find their safe way out. So funny!
Allen gets this style of comedy, what with the throwback overacting and 1960’s references, sprinkled with updated jokes such as the “50 shades of green” bit that was improvised in the 2012 production. It had to stay. There are clever hat tips to William Shatner, Star Wars and the Marx Brothers, and a visit from some beloved Christmas characters including Frosty, Charlie Brown, Rudolph and the Grinch.
The intimacy at Rover Dramawerks’ space is great, but this could also work on a bigger stage with a larger budget. It’s funny enough to garner commercial appeal.