The holidays are rich with traditions that make some people sick. Fruitcake, for instance. Or undercooked ham.
And let's not forget the barrage of movies and shows that run on a continuous loop, saturating brains with visions of sugarplum fairies and tiny crutches.
For those craving fresh and realistic entertainment this season, Stageworks is offering "Holiday Party of One," an antidote to the noxious effects of too much good cheer. The show was created by Alison Burns and Karla Hartley.
"I'll be honest about it — I threw out ideas and Alison made it all happen," said director Hartley. "Alison and I and [the cast] have done a million versions of 'A Christmas Carol' or Christmas shows and we hate it. It makes you not want to have Christmas at the end of it. We wanted to do something like having a bunch of friends together, but not too happy,"
The two-act production introduces three characters at odds with each other. Heather Krueger and Derek Womack play a stressed-out married couple unable to connect. Burns portrays Krueger's sister, and neither gets along with the other. The three are placed in a situation where they are forced to work out their differences. Ricky Cona acts as the referee, a disgruntled Clarence who resents having to work Christmas — again.
"In the end you see him rooting for these people. An outsider's view on your life is a good thing. Everyone will be able to relate to one of these people," said Burns.
The first act's storyline is buoyed with holiday music and some parodies. For instance, "Go Tell it on the Mountain" is now "Go Post it on My Facebook." Act II is pure cabaret. The actors banter and sing a plethora of parodies, including a rewrite of "Great Balls of Fire." In honor of Hanukkah, the song becomes "Eight Days of Fire."
This is the second work that Burns has written for professional theater. She drew from her experiences in Tampa Bay's theater community to craft each character.
"I knew Ricky would be in this role. A friend of mine who read the script said, 'You're writing how he talks.' I've done many shows with Ricky, so I wrote how I know he'd deliver the lines," said Burns.
Preparations for the show, it turns out, have been a lot like prepping for holidays with the family. The upside is that Burns and Hartley have been able to choose who sits at the table with them. Also, suggestions are welcome.
"That's the value of working with people over and over again. There's already a synergy in the room that helps that collaborative effort really heighten. It's been very valuable to have people who know each other and have worked together before," Hartley said.
HOLIDAY PARTY OF ONE
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 16
Where: Stageworks, Grand Central at Kennedy, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., West Building, Ground Floor, Tampa
Tickets: $27.50; (813) 251-8984 and