The Yuletide festivities in Caerphilly, Virginia, are threatened by an inebriated actor, a slight case of murder, and 23 Gouldian finches.
It looks like so much work for professor Michael Waterston to both direct and star in the community/college production of A Christmas Carol that’s grown out of his well-received one-man show that the board hires Malcolm Haver to play Scrooge instead, figuring that the increased box-office take Haver’s name guarantees will more than offset the visitor’s salary. That turns out to be a decision only the Grinch could endorse. Haver’s only sort of a name, only sort of an improvement on Michael even when he’s sober, and only sort of sober even on his best days. So Michael’s wife and assistant director, Meg Langslow, adds wrangling the star to her extensive resume (Gone Gull, 2017). Even though Meg gets help from her mother; Mayor Randall Shiffley; and the usual suspects, it’s a tall order, partly because once Randall gets Haver cut off from legitimate sources of alcohol, the sozzled thespian finds an obliging bootlegger, and partly because Meg has other problems on her mind: an unidentified corpse found in a local stream; a persistent fan of Haver’s who’s pressing the Rev. Robyn Smith to mount a celebration of Weaseltide, whatever that is; a collection of finches Meg’s endlessly resourceful grandfather has added to his menagerie; and eventually a murdered bootlegger. Will this last development keep the headliner sober long enough to tread the boards come Christmas Eve?
A mildly curdled take on the most wonderful time of the year that won’t offend the most devout celebrants. Spoiler alert: the finch doesn’t steal Christmas, and the tale ends with a celebration of Weaseltide and the triumphant premiere of A Christmas Carol. Whew.