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Attack Theatre outside usual holiday box

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Liz Chang in Attack Theatre’s “Holliday Unwrapped” Photo credit: Brian Cohen

Fresh perspectives come naturally to the folks at Attack Theatre. So, it's no surprise that their holiday show doesn't resemble a Currier and Ives print.

Yet, the company's physical inventiveness serves a story with a moral summarized by the show's slogan, “It's better to dance with a box on your head than worry about what's inside.”

Attack Theatre will present “Holiday Unwrapped” on Friday and Saturday at Attack Theatre Studios, 2425 Liberty Ave. (in Pittsburgh Opera's headquarters), Strip District.

Saturday's daytime performances will be followed or preceded by extras for kids: games, jumping around and interactive entertainment.

The show grew out of a request from Gateway to the Arts for a holiday offering to be done in schools.

“When we looked around at the panoply of (existing) offerings, we saw nothing that interested us,” says producing artistic director Peter Kope. “So, we invented our own story, a show that was fun, clever, basically non-denominational but still celebrating this season of giving.”

They tapped a wide variety of music, including Klezmer, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and jazz versions of Christmas classics. After enjoying performing the show, and seeing how well it was received, Attack Theatre decided three years ago to begin presenting “Holiday Unwrapped” on its own series of performances.

“So, a holiday tradition for Attack Theatre was born,” Kope says. “Besides, my son Zander still loves it. (He's 4 now and) asks to see the show where Dane (Toney) dances with the box on his head.”

The story follows Clara during the season of fevered shopping, of giving and getting, as she proves worthy of receiving. The protagonist of the most-famous holiday dance piece, “The Nutcracker,” is named either Clara or Marie, depending on the production. Attack Theatre's Clara will not receive a magical nutcracker.

“Her three friends each give her a special present, and, in each case, it's not exactly what she hoped for — one is a stiletto shoe, one a pair of oversized combat boots, and one a pair of socks,” Kope says.

Given Attack Theatre's orientation, Clara's uses for her presents leads to full-on hard dancing.

“The one stiletto shoe allows her to spin really well on one leg as the Sugar Rum Cherry,” he says. “The oversized combat boots initially weigh her down until she figures out how to manage them and dances a karaoke version of ‘Blue Christmas.' ”

The socks, with imagination, prove perfect for ice skating to a Christmas waltz.

“Clara has to figure out how to take that which is given to her and be gracious about it, to find a way to make it work rather than complain,” Kope says.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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