Live Active Cultures

Ah, the sweet sounds and smells of the season: The heartwarming music of digital explosions and cha-chinging cash registers, and savory scents of faux-butter flavoring and flash-fried egg rolls. And, there's the shinning sun and gentle breezes of a warm midwinter's morn. Yes, it's time once again for we Jews to celebrate another traditional Floridian Yiddish yuletide with our sacred rituals — multiplex-hopping, Asian dining and post-Noel discount shopping. (It's a horrid anti-Semitic cliché, but that doesn't mean it isn't 100 percent true.)

Of course, if you're reading this column then Xmas Eve is nigh (or bye-bye), and you've already missed the Jewiest jubilation of the holiday season. Last Friday night, Orlando's most eccentric performance artist Brian Feldman marked the last night of the festival of lights with his second annual (and perhaps final) outing to ChanuIKEA, a semi-traditional celebration of the ancient Maccabean victory over Syrian oppression in Google-translated Swedish. This tour of the home-furnishing monolith's lighting department (conducted this year by local performance artist Justin Bowen, with Feldman providing musical backup) was every bit as punctual, coherent and explicable as we've come to expect from Feldman's brainstorms (which is to say, "not in the least").

You missed out on the menorah party, but there's one last chance to bond with Feldman's bizarreness before 2009 is out: On New Year's Eve, he'll be at Urban Stylez Barber Shop (7 N. Rosalind Ave.) for a ritualized removal of his signature facial hair titled Take My Beard, Please! If you attend, save some clippings for me; I envision an army of clones spreading site-specific nonsense far and wide.…

If you're looking to get Scrooged, you're running late: Perennials like Dickens by Candlelight (which Robin and Terry Olson handed off to John DiDonna while they travel), Theatre Downtown's A Christmas Carol and David A. McElroy's one-man show have all taken their final bows. The Plaza Theatre on Bumby is still showing a "touching modern stage adaptation" of O. Henry's tearjerker The Gift of the Magi. Or see all those stories and more skewered with a stake of holly in Orlando Shakes' Every Christmas Story Ever Told. And you can get some Father Christmas face time without leaving the couch courtesy of the Santa Talks YouTube series starring former UCF theater professor J.J. Ruscella as big red; it's part of the Santa Is Real pre-promotion for KRS Media Group's in-development film Kris, The Legend Begins).

But what you really want after the presents are unwrapped is a way to escape the stifling sincerity of that good-will-toward-men garbage. I suggest two ways to point your sleigh when you finally run screaming from grandmother's house. To the west, the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden continues to host PB&J Theatre Factory's Sleigh, a slapstick seasonal send-up starring Brandon Roberts, Mike Gill, Jason Horne and the rest of the geniuses behind the superb Sport and Snack.

Or, if you're leaving the kids behind, head down the Trail to the Parliament House's Footlight Theater for a pair of Wanzie-presented shows. On Saturday his Glittering Christmas Carol with Carol Lee, Miss Sammy and "master puppeteer" Doug Ba'aser finishes its runs. On Sunday Mary Thompson Hunt, Krista Miller, Carol Stein and other vets of Disney's vacated Pleasure Island reunite for The Comedy Where? House Show improv performance. Either production should scrub the sugarplums right out of your sleep.

The theme parks are always good for a deep-tissue injection of the holiday spirit, provided you can tolerate the capacity crowds. The two big players look to be easing off the escalation of their décor war this year. Disney's gone all-LED with the dancing Osborne lights at Hollywood Studios, but cut the classic "Lights of Winter" display at Epcot, so call it a wash. Universal has returned with their Macy's balloon parade and Grinchmas musical (featuring local pros like Elizabeth Murf; shame that Seuss's sweet story gets Mannheim Steamrolled).

Meanwhile, the smaller SeaWorld exhibits the most effort this season, possibly showing that its musical-chairs corporate ownership hasn't adversely affected operations. The returning Polar Express Experience is still a lame film shoehorned into a second-rate simulator; bypass the ride and just enjoy the beautiful beluga whales in the arctic walk-through environment. Much better are the holiday-themed shows added to the park through next weekend. I'm a sucker for sea lions, and while the pacing is poor and it's always painful watching animal trainers try to act, Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas gets two flippers up for its snarky seasonal humor and enormous walrus guest star. Winter Wonderland on Ice features a cast of more than a dozen talented ice-skaters (including a handful of former national medalists), better-than-average production values and just enough cheesy Christmas cheer to warm the heart as the temperature dips into the frigid 40s. Best of all, the Holiday Reflections fireworks and water-fountain finale holds its own against Disney's displays, with a little less bombast and a touch more class.

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