Actors put right twist on offbeat holiday fare

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Suffice it say, the new holiday show by the Pulp Vixens troupe is not your usual "Nutcracker." Nor is it your everyday unusual "Nutcracker."

In this very pulpy, completely twisted rendition, scripted with craven glee by gifted satirist Scot Augustson, little Clara is a gawky scholarship student at a Catholic boarding school-cum-ballet academy in Europe. The nutcracker she gets for Christmas is actually a small sledgehammer. (It works great on walnuts.) And her fantasies aren't so much about sugar-plum fairies and mice, but hot liaisons with female rock stars.

Clearly, "A Very Lesbian Nutcracker" won't be everybody's cup of eggnog. Neither will its mock-noir companion piece, "Hung by the Chimney," in which a mannish gal private eye tries to solve a hopelessly convoluted caper involving a lot of stuffed monkeys. (Trust me, it's strange.)

But fans of irreverent gay camp and the saucy Pulp Vixen trio — composed on this occasion of Keri Healey, Jennifer Jasper and Shawn Yates — should get quite a few chuckles out of this double bill, as it careens along from parody to lampoon to spoof.

Both plays have comic peaks and valleys. And both benefit from the tight, frisky direction of Burton Curtis, who keeps the multiple character changes moving so smoothly, you take it for granted Healey might come on as a crazed nun one moment and a ditzy schoolgirl or Gal Friday the next.

Like productions by groups such as Split Britches and The Ridiculous Theatre, both one-acts are encrusted with enough puns, double-entendres, consciously belabored similies ("she's as phony as a three-legged chicken in a sideshow) and literary allusions to pulp literature (from "The Well of Loneliness" to "The Maltese Falcon") to ... well, to crack up a barrel of monkeys. Though maybe not the stuffed ones that fall from the rafters.

It's hard to keep up the dizzying barrage of stylized verbal spoofery the Pulp gals aim for, and there are stretches where Augustson's mannered dialogue and tangled plotting get tiresome, especially in "Hung by the Chimney."

But with Jasper handling most of the faux-male roles, Yates as the dolls and ingenues, and Healey in a host of pungent little cameos, this holiday amusement is funny enough to earn its offbeat place by the fireside.

"A Very Lesbian Nutcracker" and "Hung by the Chimney"

By Scot Augustson. Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 23 at Northwest Asian American Theatre, 409 Seventh Ave. S., Seattle; $10-$12, 206-340-1049.