Leave it to Factory Theater to come up with a twist on the story of the Magi that’s smart-assed and sincere at the same time. In Chase Wheaton-Werle’s Wise Guys: The First Christmas Story, now in its world premiere under Becca Holloway’s direction, Melchior (Josh Razavi), Balthazar (Michael Jones), and Gaspar (Shail Modi) have to overcome their differences and band together in order to survive their journey to Bethlehem. Along the way, they’re abandoned by their camel ride-share operator, Ubar (Amber Washington), captured by bandits, face near-death from lack of water and food, and keep encountering a mysterious being named Gabriel (Ashley Yates).
Wise Guys: The First Christmas Story Through 12/16: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; accessibility performance Sun 11/19, understudy performance Sun 12/3; no shows Thu-Sun 11/23-11/26; Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard, 312-275-5757, thefactorytheater.com, $25
The framing device here is similar to that of Jessica Dickey’s Galileo’s Daughter (presented last spring by Remy Bumppo), with a religious studies PhD candidate, Rhys (Lizzy Mosher), visiting dusty Vatican archives to read an obscure account of the three kings. She’s aided by the ancient wisecracking librarian Adriano (Harrison Lampert, who does delicious double duty as toxic narcissist King Herod). And though there are some bits that are stretched a little longer than necessary, the overall message—miracles occur amid the mundane, and simple kindnesses are the greatest miracles of all—couldn’t be more seasonally appropriate. The actors dig into the story with gusto and heart. I wouldn’t mind this show becoming a recurring holiday event.