Independent Musical Productions is running the farce, Inspecting Carol, through tonight at the Lee High School Black Box Theatre. This play is built purely for laughs, and IMP does it right, providing an enjoyable evening of theatre.
The plot centers around a struggling professional theatre, fighting for financial survival. As they start the very short rehearsal period for their annual production of “A Christmas Carol”, they learn that the National Endowment for the Arts has withheld its grant, pending a visit to the theatre by one of their inspectors. A young man arrives to audition, and is mistaken as that inspector, so every clueless suggestion he makes is treated as a brilliant idea by the company, and it becomes the oddest story about Scrooge you have ever seen. Hilarity ensues. My only quibble with the script is the idea that this is a professional theatre, paying union wages to its actors, because other than those relatively unimportant lines, this is clearly a group of amateur community-theatre artists. Those lines aside, anyone who has done community theatre, will recognize the personalities and troubles–this is like a stage version of the movie Waiting for Guffman.
IMP does a fine job with this show. It is a farce, so reality goes out the window relatively quickly, but it’s all in good fun. Nick Shabel has done a nice job of staging this production for a thrust configuration. With audience on three sides, it can be a challenge to ensure that no audience members feel like they are staring at backs, or blocked from seeing the action, and most of the time Shabel avoids those problems. The blocking and stage pictures are generally quite natural, and focus the audience attention well. In casting, I would have preferred a child in the role of the actor playing Tiny Tim–not a small child, since the script calls for him to be a bit big for the part, but not an adult either–maybe a 12-year old. By having “Tiny Tim” start as an adult, when he is replaced by another adult, we lose some extra sight gags toward the end. That said, Shabel did a very nice job in finding the actors for this show, because they all do fine work.
This is a wonderful ensemble cast–there is no clear-cut “lead role”–with hardly a weak performance in the group, and they work together and support each other quite well. As I scan the cast list in my program, I can’t decide whom to nominate as a stand-out, because the performances were so even across the group, and that’s a good thing. I’m not saying that everyone is stellar, but the casting was quite well done, so that the show as a whole works quite well, with everyone able to do everything they are asked.
The technical elements generally support the show quite well. The exception would be the lighting, which both managed to shine some lights into audience eyes, and still leave dark spots on the stage. Those minor issues aside, the tech was otherwise quite well done. The costumes, by Julie Hornstein, match the characters and personalities, and provide the necessary laughs of their own. The scenery, designed by Nick Shabel and Vivienne Atkins, is well laid out, providing both the necessary background to the action, and filling the thrust configuration, without blocking any sightlines.
Overall, this is an enjoyable, goofy evening of entertainment. Check your “reality” at the door, and just have fun. There is only one more performance left–tonight–so click this link for show time and ticket information.
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