Couple of crackpots: Revue takes on holiday traditions

In their current revue “Crones for the Holidays: The Sequel,” Terry Baum and Carolyn Myers use sketch comedy, improv, music and political satire to skewer a few sacred cows and keep audiences laughing.

“Crones” runs Dec. 21-29 at San Francisco’s Exit Theatre. As the title implies, this is its second annual run.

Terry Baum (left) and Carolyn Myers photo/liz payne

How sacred are those cows? No less than the Virgin Mary makes an appearance at one point in the revue.

“We made up the whole story just to get away with it,” says Baum, the Crones’ resident Jew. “I played the Virgin Mary. It’s just my face and one arm poking out of this Russian icon painting.”

Baum and Myers brought back other favorite moments from last year, too, including their original songs “Moishe the Green-Nosed Herring” and “The 12 Days of Family Insults,” as well as a new tune, “Frosty the Snowden-Manning” (referencing 2013’s top whistleblowers, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning).

It’s not just about Christmas; Baum also draws on her Jewish heritage. At one point, for instance, “I’m doing a monologue that tells the historical rebellion behind the story of Hanukkah, and also talk about family memories,” she says. “Certainly Hanukkah is a political holiday, a rebellion against an occupying invader.”

The irreverence and left-of-center politics reflect the views of the Crones.

“I’m perceived as an old woman,” says Baum, an L.A. native who at 67 barely qualifies for the crone moniker. “It’s reclaiming it to say, yes, that’s who we are. As crones we have something important to say. As old women we have wisdom, we are freer to say exactly what we think.”

They did it as young women, too.

The two met in the 1970s through Lilith, the S.F.-based radical feminist women’s theater troupe. They considered themselves theatrical soulmates ever since.

The duo co-wrote their first play, “Dos Lesbos,” in 1980. Baum went on to write and act in many plays around the world, and also dabbled in politics, running for mayor of San Francisco in 2011 and for Congress in 2004. She also directed a short film that screened at the 2007 Frameline festival.

Myers, who was raised Methodist, teamed up with numerous West Coast theater companies, including in Ashland, Ore.

As a playwright, Baum has explored her Jewish roots before. Her play “Chanukah Butch” tells the story of a Jewish lesbian who brings her Jewish girlfriend home to meet the parents during the Festival of Lights. Instead of the parents being outraged over their daughter’s sexual orientation, the girlfriend is the one who throws a fit because the family has a Hanukkah bush in the house.

Baum and Myers got to work together again, in 2007, at a vacation retreat in New Mexico hosted by feminist writer and activist Sonia Johnson. It just seemed like a good idea to put on a show: The mostly improvised results gave birth to the Crackpot Crones.

Because Baum and Myers had a facility with improv theater, that seemed to be the best direction to go, and it’s been nonstop fun for them ever since.

The two trade off on writing sketches, collaborating on some. Myers, an improv specialist, always includes audience participation sketch comedy in every show.

On a more serious note, the duo co-produced “Hick: A Love Story,” a one-woman play Baum co-wrote about Lorena Hickok, an accomplished journalist who was, by all accounts, the lover of Eleanor Roosevelt. “The greatest American woman of the 20th century was emotionally supported and guided by her woman lover,” says Baum.

But right now, Baum and Myers are focused on having fun with “Crones for the Holidays.”

“The truth is it’s just radical for us to be old women and demanding,” Baum says. “As old women we have wisdom, and we are freer to say exactly what we think.”

“Crones for the Holidays: The Sequel,” 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 21-29. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., S.F.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.