Inspecting Carol, currently being presented by the Labyrinth Theatre, is a play with an intriguing premise: you are taken behind the scenes of a failing theatre company and witness the personal and professional hardships they have encountered while trying to put on their annual production of A Christmas Carol. Various characters both on- and off-stage are presented, and the play offers several distinct methods of genuine laughter.
Inspecting Carol was developed by Dan Sullivan, the head of the Seattle Repertory Company, in conjunction with several members of the company. It was first presented there in 1991 and has been a staple of regional theatre since. Its tells the story of what happens when a beleaguered theatre company mistakes the wrong person for a visiting government official who will recommend if they are to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Some of the performers stand out in the proceedings and are worthy of special note. As the uptight business manager, Chris Dover was the master of reaction. His eyes bulged so large and wide they almost seemed to come out of his sockets, and enthused many of the lines with a comical nervousness that fit his character precisely. Juli Erickson also livened the evening with her portrayal of a seasoned British actress who perhaps had spent too many years in the theatre. Check out her technique for relaxation using imaginary fruit!
T.A. Taylor's hammy turn as the emotional actor also contributed to the enjoyment. The voice he used when played Scrooge during rehearsals was so affected that one wondered if he were actually made of wax. As the artistic director of this company, Amy Mills had some priceless moments in her interaction with her zany company.
Unfortunately, Inspecting Carol as written does not fully support the high energy of its players. The play starts out slow and then things start to jell just before the end of the first act. The second act is long and a little tedious at times, with a succession of short skits that are somewhat funny but do not add up to a cohesive whole. The characters that Sullivan and his company have drawn are two-dimensional. Therefore, we care little about them, which detracts from the humor.
However, if you are interested in seeing a comedy that is easy to take with some true farcical moments, then you will enjoy Inspecting Carol.
Inspecting Carol will continue to run at The Labyrinth Theatre until December 9. For more information, please visit the theatre's website.
Photo Credit: Kevin Lloyd