A painted storybook backdrop, including a beanstalk on the right and a cross-beamed house on the left. In the foreground are three actors. A "panto dame" (older man in drag) kneels left, and a younger woman holding a sex toy kneels right. In the center is Jack in shorts, boots, a sleeveless top with suspenders, and a cap. He appears to be doing some kind of dance.
Jack Off the Beanstalk at PrideArts Credit: Sara Shifflet Photography

I try not to lose myself in hyperbole, but I’m guessing Tom Whalley’s Jack Off the Beanstalk (a bawdy take on the classic British “panto”) is the only play this holiday season where the cow steals the show. 

Fist the Cow (Tyler Callahan), the bovine possession of the titular Jack Clapp (Joe Lewis)—whom Jack naively sells off for a proverbial “fuckton of gold pieces”—makes their rousing entrance several minutes into the show. Their (Fist’s pronouns suggested they are nonbinary) dialogue consists of moos but their facial expressions—ranging from the confused to the imperious—and provocative dancing make them the real Greek chorus. 

Jack Off the Beanstalk
Through 12/18: Wed-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, PrideArts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, 773-857-0222, pridearts.org, $35 ($30 students/seniors), recommended 18+

PrideArts, after kicking off this season with the lovely musical drama Girlfriend (also featuring Lewis), does a real 180-degree turn with the ribald story of Jack’s attempts to save his farm and village from the Vagiant and its villainous henchman, Fleshlight (Neill Kelly), wooing Princess Jill (Anna Seibert) along the way.

The plot is threadbare, but the spirited cast, under the direction of Bryan McCaffrey, is having fun. Jack Off the Beanstalk is sturdy enough to string together 100 minutes of vulgar jokes, bad puns, musical numbers, and rude props—the creators get more use out of a double-headed sex toy than anyone in the audience would have ever thought possible. The audience participation contest is in refreshingly bad taste too. 

With no room for sentimentality and only a few Christmas carols shoehorned in, Scrooges will love the lack of holiday treacle. Still, the show includes a sing-along to the best version of “Jingle Bells” ever, with new R-rated lyrics suggested for the relatives you hate, which alone is worth the price of admission.