When commissioned by City Theatre in Pittsburgh to wrote a holiday-themed comedy, playwright Christopher Durang — known for his wickedly funny indictments of religion, marriage and parenting — immediately thought about poor Mrs. Bob Cratchit, from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."
"The first thought I had...was to make Mrs. Bob Cratchit, who is pretty much a pale character in all the versions, the main character," Durang told Playbill On-Line in the Nov. 5-11 Brief Encounter interview. "What if she just couldn't stand how pathetic her life was? [Traditionally,] she's just so patient and calm and long-suffering. For a while, I thought she would run off with the play, as it were, and go away from 'A Christmas Carol' and that she would run into many other Dickens characters. I was thinking of Fagin and Nancy and Bill Sykes from 'Oliver Twist.'"
When he first sat down to write Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, however, it was Scrooge he first committed to the page. "It starts with Ebenezer as a child and Jacob Marley as a child," Durang explained. "In my version, they were friends. Then I had grownup Scrooge come on stage and have an argument with his younger self. All of a sudden, Scrooge became much more important than I thought he was going to be."
Durang said the play starts out as a genuine parody of "A Christmas Carol," but Mrs. Cratchit keeps taking the plot off track and the ghost's magic keeps not working. "For the first couple scenes, the ghost keeps trying to get them to the Fezziwigs and they keep ending up different places: One of them being the Cratchit house way too early," Durang said.