|| Print ||
|Written by Wayne Current|
|Wednesday, 09 December 2009 00:00|
Ottawa audiences have plenty to choose from if they want to see a version of Charles Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol this year. There is the Robert Zemeckis animated film staring Jim Carrey now playing in theatres, an upcoming show at the National Arts Centre, and a rather unique take at the Gladstone Theatre entitled (take a deep breath): The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town Women's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of A Christmas Carol. On Dec. 3, I decided to get into the Christmas spirit by attending Gladstone Theatre's version.Despite a weak script, there are some strong performances in the play.
Writers David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr.'s Farndale Ave...Christmas Carol is a comedic take on this yuletide favorite. It tells the story of a church community theatre's production of A Christmas Carol and, not surprisingly, everything goes wrong. The actors fail to show up on time, the set is in need of frequent repair, and some of the casting choices are questionable. For example, Bob Cratchit is played by an elderly women (actress Rachel Eugster) with a walker, neck brace, and leg cast.
The problem with the script is that there is little character development, and the narrative is just an unending sequence of gags. Most of the jokes, moreover, are of the predictable variety and the humour often feels forced.
The script also relies on audience participation that isn't very well thought out. Rather than encouraging genuine interaction with the cast, the participation in this play is a contrived means of setting up various gags -- usually at the audience's expense. One poor audience member was given an afghan (to keep warm) and was stuck holding onto it for the entire second act.
The audience catches on quickly to the nature of the participation McGillivray and Zerlin Jr. (and director Steve Martin) are looking for, making them less inclined to engage with the performers. There is a game of charades and a sing-along before the play's conclusion, both of which rely largely on audience participation. Unfortunately, on the night I attended, the audience's response was quite limited.Despite a weak script, there are some strong performances in the play. Colleen Sutton does an admirable job as Felicity, an amateur actress a little overwhelmed by the experience. Sutton has a wonderful sense of comedic timing and some of the funniest moments in the play are a direct result of her strong performance. Similarly, Chris Ralph is well cast as the bumbling stage manager/set builder/performer. Ralph is no stranger to playing these hapless characters, and he does it well.
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town Women's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of A Christmas Carol is not my cup of tea, but humour is fairly subjective, so it's possible others will find this play much funnier than I did.
During the entire run of the Farndale Ave...Christmas Carol (Dec. 3 to Dec. 19), The Gladstone we will be collecting non-perishable goods for the Ottawa Food Bank. For more info and ticket information, click here.
Tags: a christmas carol, can con, christmas, dickens, gladstone theatre, review, steve martin, theatre