A Night of Theatrical Fun and LaughterRating: 4
Kansas City Actors Theatre
Who needs another "Christmas Carol?" Well, the nonprofit theatre of America, for one thing, though not as much as the dance world needs its "Nutcrackers," evidently. "Carol" generates audiences from those who've somehow missed before or must see it again. I fall into neither group, and was happy to find the Unicorn's fine company simply "Inspecting" it.
"Inspecting Carol" was created by Dan Sullivan and the Seattle Repertory Theatre, inspired by Gogol's "The Inspector General" — but also by the uncertain realities of American theater. Cathy Barnett's stagy materfamilias, Zorah, is troubled — tortured — by the demands of keeping her theatre afloat. Her tension here is the threatened loss of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. A field rep is coming — and it didn't go well the last time. They will apparently do anything to make it right.
The appearance of greenhorn Wayne Wellacre, amusingly played by Patrick Du Laney, is what makes anything go for the rest of the play. Mistaken identity runs amok as the company on stage — very well-played the Unicorn's real one, joined by Kansas City Actors Theatre and MFA students from UMKC — takes outlandish ideas to the limit. The Unicorn audience is the beneficiary, and we laughed all the way to the brink of apparent disaster before the night was over.
This is a well-played, well-staged theatrical romp, and will have you laughing, too. The Unicorn's and KCAT's core actors — Robert Gibby Brand, Pil Fiorini, John Renshenhouse, Nancy Marcy, Marilyn Lynch, Bob Wagner and Beckett Pfanmiller (as Luther/Tiny Tim)— and four UMKC actors — Vincent Wagner, Thomas Tucker, John Van Winkle, and Jessica Biernaki Jensen — are clearly having a lot of fun, and the feeling is infectious. I especially like Jensen's stage manager with a 'tude (and a bull horn) as she calls the company to stage its preposterous scenes. UMKC designers set that stage in a fashion we've come to expect at the Unicorn.
I won't say more. The plot twists should be fresh when you report to the Unicorn for your own laugh-therapy, from now through December 23rd. This may not be "the best Christmas Carol ever" — Zorah's aim the end of Act One (there are two) — but it's a fine inspection, capped by the most natural, fun curtain call I've experienced in the theater. You'll have fun, too.