By Judy Sheehan
Directed by Bob Gilbo
Looking Glass Theatre (307-9467)
422 W. 57th St. (closes December 20)
Equity showcase
Review by Adrienne Onofri

Now that Roger Daltrey has played Scrooge, perhaps we should ask ourselves if we've finally reached saturation point when it comes to revisions of A Christmas Carol. Then again, it just wouldn't be Christmas without a new variation on the Dickens tale. And why shouldn't the Looking Glass Theatre be able to take a stab at it? According to the program for A Carole Christmas, Looking Glass "produces rethinkings of Classical works." So a production of this oft-rethought classic was inevitable, I guess.

This retelling of the Scrooge saga lets Looking Glass's playwright-in-residence, Judy Sheehan, do what she likes best: send up cultural icons by casting them as characters from classical literature. Other standard Sheehan shenanigans are also present in A Carole Christmas: audience participation, coarse language, a PMS joke, and at least one scene involving a dominatrix.

Does A Carole Christmas enhance the Christmas Carol canon? After so many Scrooges, a new version would have to be magnificent to really make an impression ... and A Carole Christmas is not magnificent. It's pleasant enough, though. Not all the jokes work, but there are funny scenes-particularly the interplay between Carole "Scrooge" Tudor and Charles Dickens (who serves as the Ghost of Christmas Past). And the play has a solid script. Carole is not just a generic bad guy who gets her comeuppance. The decently developed subplots show how Carole has done some real damage-to her daughter, her biggest fan, and herbusiness partner, among others.

A Carole Christmas's greatest asset is its cast, one of the finest ever assembled on the Looking Glass stage. Six of the eight actors played multiple roles, and they completely changed personalities (along with costumes, voices, ages, etc.) for each part. These versatile and spirited performers-Heather McKenney, Terrence Withers, Jenna Bans, Rachel Permann, Beth Ann Oberfoell, and Marc Diraison-eclipsed the two actors who played single roles. Mark A. Keeton was OK as Dickens, although his English accent came and went. DeeAnn Weir was similarly adequate in the title role, which oddly enough was the least interesting part.

Carole Tudor is a celebrity homemaker ‡ la Martha Stewart who is-just as the real Martha Stewart is alleged to be-anything but a prize wife, mother, friend or employer. Weir's performance might have been more memorable if she had actually imitated Stewart's bland, narcotic delivery. The characterization illustrated A Carole Christmas's main flaw: it didn't decide whether to be a spoof or simply a retelling. The first two-thirds of the play seem like a spoof, but parody gives way to pathos once the Ghost of Christmas Future arrives. The play ends on a high note, though, as Sheehan saved her best gag for last: the last line of the play is probably the funniest.

(Sets, Megan Halpern; costumes, Erica Nilson; lighting, Richard Currie.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1998 Adrienne Onofri