Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s darkly sarcastic, gloriously messy absurdist play–about an alien named Phoebe Zeitgeist who comes into the world naked and guileless and learns to play all our dangerous games–may be the least spiritually bankrupt show running this holiday season. Unlike the golden-throated Mr. Dickens, for example, who argues for both charity and self-indulgence, for feeding the poor and clothing the rich in finery, Fassbinder is an equal-opportunity misanthrope. Everyone in his universe is a Scrooge or a Grinch. The beauty of Andrew Cooper Wasser’s staging, which opened last May at Trapdoor Theatre, is that he never quailed at reproducing Fassbinder’s dark vision, following it right down to the play’s long, uncomfortable nude scenes–so disconcerting that they’re the very antithesis of erotic–and the fact that there are zero, count ’em, zero likable characters. A few performances were off in the original production, but there was still something glorious and liberating about this open-eyed look at human frailty and depravity. In the six months since it opened, this production has only gotten tighter and better (some of the roles have been recast), and the overall effect richer and stronger. I can’t think of a better antidote to Christmas sentimentality. Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, 773-384-0494. Open run: Saturdays, midnight; Mondays, 8 PM; Sunday, December 8, 7 PM; no show Monday, December 9. $15.

–Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Vesna Grbovic.