TO JAN. 4, 2003

The ink probably wasn’t dry on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol before someone started on its first parody. Through the years, such masters of satire as Mr. Magoo and Dr. Johnny Fever have made the classic tale contemporary to their generations. Nowadays, anytime a sitcom character falls asleep on a Christmas show, you can be pretty sure his castmates will be donning such Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come togs. Perhaps in an attempt to escape predictability, the Landless Theater Company throws everything but the kitchen chamber pot at the classic in its hilarious parody, A Christmas Twist. For starters, Carol’s traditional plot is entwined with that of another Dickens great, Oliver Twist. And references from all quarters abound, including those made to It’s a Wonderful Life, West Side Story, Little Orphan Annie, the famous misspelling on Elvis’ headstone, and, unless I’m very much mistaken, even Gilligan’s Island. Twist succeeds at combining the heartwarming sentiment of the season with gritty Victorian realism: “What’s the password?” Scrooge’s nephew, the evil boss of the workhouse, is asked at the home of the evil boss of the orphanage, Miss Fagin. “Open the door, you lice-ridden whore,” he correctly guesses. The play also keeps the tragedy that anchors A Christmas Carol close to its twisted heart. “Tiny Twist was so light to carry,” Bob Cratchitt mourns. “It was the pine box that slowed me down.” If you’re in Adams Morgan celebrating our Lord’s nativity, lay off the grog for 90 minutes and catch A Christmas Twist at 10 p.m. Saturdays, to Saturday, Jan. 4, 2003, at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. $12. (202) 462-7833. (Janet Hopf)