If you think the Grinch sold out and want to scream at the sentimental sappiness of the season, "Catching Hell," a Sacred Fools Theater production at the Heliotrope Theater, may be just what you need.
Beginning with a couple of warped Christmas carols that mention maggots, acid enemas and severed body parts, this show is certainly not for the squeamish. Paul Plunkett's sordid tale has Santa Claus (John Sylvain) in hell because he upstaged Jesus' birthday and a hideously mismatched couple (Jeffrey Steven Smith and Therese Tinling) bound together in a mutual torturing cycle. He's there because he murdered her; she's there for her druggie ways.
Run by Lucifer (Jihad Harik), hell is a prison of horrors under the watchful eye of the big CEO upstairs in heaven who sends an angel, Mickey (Piper Henry), to keep tabs. One demon, Mr. B. (Gerald McClanahan), decides to overthrow Lucifer and install a newly devised credit system for the inmates.
Blood, guts, torture and sexual innuendo abound, leaping into that murky area of overkill. The shock value of spurting blood, sloshing blood and blood-spattered clothes is lost to numbness. As director, Plunkett may be a bit overly indulgent of Plunkett the writer.
Sylvain makes a believably disillusioned St. Nick. Harik and McClanahan are suitably sleazy--greasy oldster and slick upscale hustler, respectively. But Henry as the dressed-for-success angel with her sweet, knowing smile and cheerfully steely demeanor is the most frightening of them all.
"Catching Hell," Heliotrope Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 20. $10. (310) 281-8337. Running time: 2 hours.