Move over Dunder Mifflin, there’s another office in town … well, in a fictional small Iowa town, anyway.
Bob Finhead’s insurance office serves as the heartbeat of this dysfunctional little burg. Around Christmas for the past 17 years, members of the community gather here for holiday spirits — especially the bottled kind — and a night of debauchery that could rival any rock band’s hotel-room-destruction fantasy.
“Bob’s Holiday Office Party” is a madcap production that’s achieved cult status, with at least one audience member (publicly recognized the night I attended) having seen all 17 years of this crazy play’s staged incarnations.
A few of the original actors who opened the play return to this production, joining two new fans who co-produced this year’s staged bash. They’re developing “Bob’s Holiday Office Party” into a feature length film/TV production.
This whacked out holiday classic began life as an improvised romp that’s now more scripted. It features Bob (Rob Elk, co-writer and originator), the insurance man/party host who’s dreaming of moving to the big city — Des Moines — to try his hand at being an inventor. Some of his crazier Rube Goldberg creations appear in cameo roles on stage.
Sheriff Joe (Joe Keyes, also co-writer and originator) is the bawdy lawman who’s taking the night — and eventually some of his clothes — off; he’s an AA sponsor who downs more liquor than all the party’s participants combined.
An assortment of feisty female farmer twins; the gay mayor (everyone but the mayor knows it) whose lusty wife is Bob’s paramour; the dorky, sober Elwin who takes advantage of Bob’s wishful thinking by getting him to sign over his business; the town stoner; the town floozy — they’re all here making a whole lot of politically incorrect trouble.
This play sells out every year. But so many of the returning audience members are laughing so hard at the jokes, at times both crude and lewd, that it became difficult to hear some of the lines.
But if you’re looking for a deranged antidote to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” take a short hike down the pike to Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd. in Rancho Park. Final performances are tonight through Saturday; tickets available at (800) 838-3006 or www.bobsofficeparty.com.
Speaking of improv
There’s a local hub for comedy and improvisation right here in Santa Monica.
After a popular debut in November, “Improv Diary…(Uh)” returns to Mission IMPROVable’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica for a three-performance run.
“Improv Diary…(Uh)” is a live improv comedy show created and produced by Kerri Fernsworth Feazell. Every week, three different people will read from their actual diaries and a team of five improvisers will create brand new improvised scenes on the spot based on those diary entries.
Should be a hoot — make sure you’re 21 and over, though. And what a bargain: tickets are just $5 at the door! Three shows only at 8 p.m. on Dec. 26, Jan. 2 and Jan. 9.
Westside Comedy Theatre offers comic relief every night of the week at 1323-A Third St., in Santa Monica For more information, visit www.westsidecomedy.com
Mayan blast off
If you’ve been following the predictions of the Mayan calendar, tomorrow may be the end of the world. But maybe not. Just in case, Stefan Haves Presents “Atomic Holiday Liftoff — The End of the Year (World?) Party.”
Cirque du Soleil’s Haves produces this event, featuring West Coast clowns, comics, acrobatic and aerial performers and a different death-defying, laughter-inducing cast each night. A few regulars join in, too: pancake juggler Scot Nery, aerialist Eric Newton, and sword swallower Brett Loudermilk, among others, are backed by original live music from composer Philip Giffin and singer Karen Blake.
The audience will be surrounded by a three-ring circus that includes a full bar, food trucks, a “black light chill space” dubbed the “Ultra Lounge” and after-show DJs.
Even if the world’s still here, the fun itself is short-lived: “Mayan Atomic Blast Off” runs through Dec. 23 at Fais Do-Do, 5727 W. Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles; it’s PG rated from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. but adults only after 10 p.m. More info and tickets here: www.atomicholidays.com.
In Paris, certain small museums are actually the “ateliers” (studios) of the artists whose work was created in them. Some are crammed side by side, floor to ceiling in a dazzling and often overwhelming array of art.
I am reminded of these ateliers when I look at The Small Works Group Show at Ruth Bachofner Gallery at Bergamot Station.
This is a beautifully hung show of small works that are individually eye-catching, but grouped together along the walls of the gallery, they look even more decorative and appealing than a Christmas tree.
Among the distinguished group of 50 artists are emerging talents and some who’ve already established names for themselves, but I’d like to call your attention to one of the veteran artists featured.
Venice-based Jean Edelstein first came to my attention in a video featuring her painting on a large glass panel, which we could watch from the back side as she splashed deftly painted strokes on the see-through surface. She’s been a dynamic force on the local scene, but an aspect of her work that I was unfamiliar with prior to this show are her books.
She’s done numerous accordion-fold, black and white and color sketches of landscapes, orchids, Huntington Gardens and performances … impressions that only a skilled artist can capture quickly and definitively. For this show, she’s contributed a book she calls “Here Now” concert, Book #148. Check out her work at www.jeanedelstein.com.
While you’re at the gallery, revel in the simple beauty of works on paper by Seiko Tachibana. These meditative pieces allow both abstract and biological forms to combine and connect, creating imaginative new patterns that feel completely organic.
Both Seiko Tachibana and the Small Works Group Show are on view at Ruth Bachofner Gallery through Jan. 5 at Bergamot Station. More info here: www.ruthbachofnergallery.com
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.