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Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

Laughs Come Late in ‘Inspecting Carol’

Theater Review

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With all the productions of A Christmas Carol that take place every holiday season, what might happen if the Dickens classic got rewritten just in time for a surprise visit from a representative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)?

That’s the premise for Sunset Playhouse’s production of Inspecting Carol by Daniel Sullivan, who based the idea on Gogol’s The Inspector General (performed earlier this season in an excellent production by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater). For those wanting to cast Christmas tradition to the winds of winter, this might be the zany antidote to familiar Christmas fare.

The challenge for the audience is to hang in there. The real laughs begin halfway through the second act, with the attempts to perform the revisionist Carol within Inspecting Carol all while under the watchful gaze of the real inspector. The play requires precise comic timing, and not all of the actors are up to the task. Fortunately, Carol Z. Dolphin keeps the farce moving with her hilarious sendup of a proper British woman playing a seductive, frizzy blond Mrs. Cratchit, more interested in igniting the passions of husband Bob Cratchit than igniting the traditional flame on the Christmas pudding. And as part of the effort to regain the NEA grant through multicultural casting, Kid Beat Box adds life and laughs as the lone black actor adapting to outlandish costumes and no chance to rehearse. His mute stage fright is made all the more funny by his wide-eyed expression, as Spencer Mather’s “updated” Scrooge tries to get him to say his lines to no avail.

If you’re patient enough to actually wait until Dec. 25 to open your holiday gifts, your patience will serve you well in waiting for the laughs in Inspecting Carol.

Sunset Playhouse’s production of Inspecting Carol runs through Dec. 31.

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