Pictured: The burlesque show Land of the Sweets ( above, with human snowflakes ) is one of many local holiday-themed offerings. Almost-Has-A-Witty-Title ( We Really Mean It This Time! ) Chicago Christmas Spectacular! Photo by Tina Haglund
Kids are constantly bribed to be nice each December to curry favor with Santa. But as grown-ups, we can cut out the pretense of phony niceties and give into the naughtiness of sin, sarcasm and satire for the holidays.
Instead of traditionally forced Christmas cheer à la A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker, consider these alphabetically listed non-traditional holiday shows to liven up the season with a brisk splash of irony mixed with ignominy ( Watch out for long titles! ) Items are in Chicago unless indicated otherwise:
—ARFTCo's Almost-Has-A-Witty-Title ( We Really Mean It This Time! ) Chicago Christmas Spectacular! is A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company's second long-titled comedy revue that massacres the squeaky clean image of sacred holiday icons and situations. You'd better watch out for a gun-toting Santa Claus in this year's edition at the Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, through Dec. 27; 312-409-6435.
—Bing Faithful's Nondenominational Holiday Special features improviser and actor Bob Kulhan taking on the persona of a pop crooner trying to dream of a white Christmas while facing two horrific 'the-show-must-go-on' incidents of live broadcasting. See if Bing Faithful can hold it all together ( including his liquor ) at the Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway, through Jan. 2; 773-561-4665.
—Cold is Jeremy Menekseoglu's adults-only Christmas tale of two lonely souls who find each other amid disappointments, prescription-drug abuse and lots of eggnog. See if their love will keep them warm at Dream Theatre Company, 556 W. 18th, though Dec. 21; 773-552-8616.
—The David Bowie Hepzikat Funky Velvet Flarney Solstice Spectacular, Live... From Space! ( David Bowie's Christmas Special 1977 network edit ) is New Millennium Theatre Company's fantasy of what a holiday special hosted by David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' persona would have been like. Get spaced out at the National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, through Dec. 27; 312-458-9083.
—Drinking and Writing Vol. IV: The 12 Steps of Xmas celebrates famed authors' creative alcoholic lubricants of choice. See this return engagement at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, through Dec. 19; 773-871-3000.
—Faith is not a reference to 1980s pop by George Michael, but Nathaniel Wright's semi-autobiographical black comedy about six Midwesterners of different races, faiths, classes and sexual orientations who are all forced to confront each other for the Christmas holiday. See this Chicago premiere courtesy of Sandhill Theatre Company at the fairly new Stage 33 Chicago, 3655 N. Kedzie, through Jan. 4; 773-648-0583.
—500 Clown Christmas is 500 Clown's acclaimed three-clown deconstruction of Charles Dickens' tale of a misers redemption, placed in context of our own seasonal joys and angst. And yes, Virginia, there is a suburban berth for 500 Clown at North Central College's Meiley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth, Naperville, from Dec. 18-23; 630-637-7469.
—Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker is the nation's first and only full-blown professional production of the holiday classic rendered in 1930s burlesque cabaret style. It will premiere in Chicago at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage, Tuesday-Wed., Dec. 9-10. It will run at 7 and 10 p.m. each night; 312-553-1212.
—Late Nite Catechism and its hit spin-offs Put the Nuns in Charge and Sunday School Cinema always get spruced up in Christmas finery. But the ever-stern Sister has a special guest star this season for her celluloid edition: Dick O'Day's Big Lovely Holiday Bingo ( featuring the wacky film-o-phile persona of Windy City Times critic Richard Knight, Jr. ) . Be as Catholic as you can be at the Royal George Theatre Center, 1641 N. Halsted. Sister is in an open run, but Dick O'Day's guest spot is only through Dec. 21; 312-988-9000 or 312-902-1500.
—Northern Foreclosure: All I Want For Christmas are my Front Door Keys is Shantz Theatre's attempt to find humor in the toxic sub-prime mortgage-backed securities that are freezing up the world's credit markets. Get some holiday stimulus packages at the Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee, through Dec. 20. $12; 773-598-4549.
—Robinson Crusoe is Piccolo Theatre's entry for its annual British Christmas pantomime. Why is this theatrical holiday tradition included in such a pessimistic listing? Obviously those adult innuendo-laden jokes have been going over your innocent head. Shout out, 'It's behind you!' at the Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main, Evanston, through Dec. 20.; 847-424-0089.
—The Santaland Diaries is back again to allow us to revel in David Sedaris' humiliation from working as a Macy's Santaland elf. The Theater Wit! revival plays Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, through Jan. 3; 773-327-5252.
—The Second City's Exceedingly Dysfunctional Holiday Revue returns to stake its suburban claim on holiday silliness at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights, through Dec. 31; 847-577-2121.
—Sexy Santa's Spectacular! Spectacular!—Burlesque's Naughty List heats up the holidays with plenty of scantily clad Santaland denizens at the Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee; through Dec. 20; 773-598-4549.
—Silent Night of the Lambs is Hell in a Handbag Productions' holiday spoof that allows you to combine your yens for Christmas cheer and Hannibal Lecter's cannibalism at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark, through Jan. 3; 800-838-3006.
—A Very Neo-Futurist Christmas Carol uses Charles Dickens' classic tale to riff on topics ranging from commercialism to Jewish holiday resentment at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, through Dec. 23; 773-275-5255.
—Xtreme Holiday Make Over is New World Repertory Theater's entry for poking fun at the Christmas season. But be forewarned: this sketch comedy show is acceptable for family audiences! See it at the Masonic Temple, 923 Curtiss, Downers Grove, through Dec. 28; 630- 663-1489.