Christmas: a time for family and the usual sappy entertainment. Sounds simple, right? The founders of the small nonprofit theater at the center of Inspecting Carol think so. They plan to capitalize on the all-pervading joy of the season with their annual production of A Christmas Carol.
However, this year’s a little different: Thanks to waning subscriptions, the theater might have to close its doors for good if director Zorah (Mary Meyer) and her motley cast can’t impress the inspector from the National Endowment for the Arts and earn a make-or-break grant that will keep the company afloat. What follows is a behind-the-scenes comedy of errors with sharp dialogue and nonstop humor, a sort of Noises Off for the Christmas set.
In a new production at Little Lake Theatre, director Jena Oberg makes the most of the feverish 12-person cast. From Art DeConciliis’s manically pitch-perfect turn as Larry, the company’s temperamental Scrooge, to Jenny Malarkey as M.J., the beleaguered (and overly giggly) stage manager, there isn’t a weak performance in the house.
Though the setup is simple and well-worn, with mistaken identities and plenty of physicality, Inspecting Carol straddles two almost impossible goals: catering to those who yearn for the same festive pastimes each December and giving a wink and nod to those who are tired of the holiday’s maudlin diversions. It succeeds on both accounts. Originally written and performed at The Seattle Repertory Theatre, this 1991 play could easily have become dated by now. But in a climate where arts programs are always first on the government chopping block, Daniel J. Sullivan’s script is every bit as relevant today as when it debuted. Add in modern audiences more than a little weary of red Starbucks cups and Black Friday shopping frenzies, and Inspecting Carol celebrates and lampoons Christmas traditions in equal measure.
So whether you’re a traditionalist who demands the family watch White Christmas and sing carols on repeat every year, or a seasonal curmudgeon who couldn’t care less about the fate of Tiny Tim, you’ll find something to love in this hilarious ode to the holidays.