There are certain times a year a theater critic learns to dread.

This is one of them.

For example, when I hear Tiny Tim bravely utter, "God bless us, every one," I am at times tempted to reply, "Oh, stuff it like a turkey."

I feel at times like it truly would be a "Wonderful Life" if Bedford Falls just fell off edge of the earth.

If you, like me, ever harbor such thoughts, even for just a fleeting moment, you could improve your holiday outlook by visiting Lafayette's Town Hall Theatre for a peek at "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)," on the boards through Dec. 21.

Oh, it may not suit the pure of heart, the kind of person who owns every Hallmark ornament ever made and can recite every word of "A Christmas Carol" by heart (and still be moved by it at every viewing). But for the rest of us, who are occasionally tempted to tell a Salvation Army bell ringer to shut the (bleep) up, this is a show that can truly brighten up the season.

Performed with wild intensity by three comic actors -- Liam Callister, Justin DuPuis and Dennis Markham -- the piece plays something like the Reduced Shakespeare Company shows, with a huge amount of iconic material covered in an extremely short time.

Here, the program begins with a very serious Markham standing center stage in a top hat and overcoat, blowing dust from a large volume of Dickens, prepared to present "A Christmas Carol" with all the overblown intensity of a Victorian melodramatist. The other performers will have nothing to do with it, however, insisting there are much more worthy pieces to be presented. And it's off to the parody races.

Director Michael Storm runs his actors through an obstacle course of spoof-worthy holiday shows, turning "Every Christmas Story" into a high-speed endurance race in which the actors hardly stop to breathe. But the pace is not so fast that each chestnut isn't well-roasted on the open fire.

The actors are in top form, running through the Christmas canon as if they had been shot from it.

And just when you can't imagine anything else that can be parodied (right around, say, intermission), along comes Act 2, which must be seen, and heard, to be believed.

This is where Markham finally gets his crack at Dickens, delving quickly into the part where we learn Marley is dead as a doornail. But then "A Christmas Carol" is invaded by "It's a Wonderful Life," and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future start mixing it up with various "Wonderful Life" characters.

This leaves Markham whipsawing back and forth between Scrooge and James Stewart, in one of the funniest and most bizarre juxtapositions I've seen on stage. And Markham, with the help of his castmates, brings it off flawlessly.

Contact Pat Craig at pjcraig495@yahoo.com.

'EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD (AND THEN SOME!)'
By Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K.
Alvarez, presented by Town Hall Theatre Company
Through: Dec. 21.
Where: Town Hall Theatre, 3535 School St., Lafayette
Running time: 2 hours,
1 intermission
Tickets: $29-$32,
925-283-1557,
www.townhalltheatre.com