Friday, December 7, 2012

Unicorn "Inspecting Carol" review by BobEvans

Dickens with a Twist Rating: 5

Inspecting Carol
Unicorn Theatre

Droll Dickens story undergoes new adaptation

Just in time for a good holiday laugh, Dickens' classic tale of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, annually performed by a small band of "talented" small town locals, goes terribly awry, but the resulting show leaves audiences laughing and set for the holidays to come.

The Unicorn's production of Inspecting Carol, assembles an immensely talented cast who indulge themselves into playing some really off-beat, untalented thespians. In this production, the non-talented actors attempt to pull off, A Christmas Carol, with only 4 days of rehearsal. Dickens, not known for levity, would feel as if he were in hell if he saw what "artistic creativity" did to his iconic Christmas story.

Imagine a Tiny Tim so big that Bob Cratchit can barely hold him. Imagine Mrs. Cratchit with a Kentucky drawl in place of Cockney London speech. Imagine an African-American ghost of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come who delivers a dissertation on social programs and planned parenthood. Sprinkle in a bit of Spanish, add some cast disagreements and a director who has no handle on her cast or crew and you begin to see the mayhem brewing in the doomed production. And, just for good measure, throw in a bit of poorly adapted Shakespeare's Richard III just for some variety.

The Unicorn's production of Inspecting Carol should be seen by everyone who wants a good laugh at the holiday treat. Now that the holidays approach, A Christmas Carol in all its adaptations will play somewhere on cable all day and evening starting about a week prior to Christmas. And, though many are good, the Alister Sims Scrooge remains the consensus favorite. Nothing is this production resembles one scrap of that film. This is pure absurdity, farce, frolicking, and fun from the moment the director steps onto state with the "Turn off your cell phones" message. From that moment on, sit back, enjoy, and laugh. It feels good.

Not a lot more can be said of the storyline without giving away the fun as it unfolds in front of the audience. Suffice it to say the director and tech crews developed a fun piece that ends way too soon. Intermission comes too quickly. The one set works well and its design allows for the entrances, exits, props, costumes, lights, makeup, etc. to work to their maximum potential. Sharp direction moves the characters in and out effortlessly by using the aisles and steps for effect. The audience feels involved in the show.

Credit the director, Theodore Swetz with the assemblage of a cast of talented crazies to carry off this zany spoof. Led by multi-talented Kathy Barnett and anchored by Marilyn Lynch, the cast contains no weaknesses from top to bottom. Browsing through the casts and their credits shows the depth and breadth of this acting ensemble. Comedies, tragedies, classics, Shakespeare, Fringe–all actors bring a wealth of performance experience to the production. And the best part, these talented actors play the most untalented actors ever assembled for a show–and they do it convincingly.

As the show unfolds, audiences learn the funny and sad back story of the cast, but still with a sense of fun and merriment. Expect to see great acting from all of them. Alphabetically, the show features, Kathy Barnett (Zora), Robert Gibby Brand (Sidney Carlton), Phil Fiorini (Phil Hewlit), John Rensenhouse (Larry Vauxhall), Nancy Marcy (Dorothy Tree-Hapgood), Patrick Du Laney (Wayne Wellacre), Marilyn Lynch (Betty Andrews), Bob Linebarger (Bart Frances), Vincent Wagner (Kevin Emery), Jessica Biernacki Jansen (M.J,), Thomas E. Tucker (Walter E. Parsons), John Van Winkle (Spike) and Beckett Pfanmiller (Luther).

If you only have time for one comedy holiday fare, check this out. Even kids will enjoy it. But, be warned, this is a modern adaptation and language is too strong for the very young (even though they have heard all the words). Elementary age would laugh, but the language is not for them. For middle schoolers, this is probably marginally appropriate and definitely OK for PG-13 and up.

The Unicorn's current production, Inspecting Carol comes highly recommended for an evening of fast paced fun and laughter.

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