Sonoma Arts Live - Inspecting Carol

Zorah Bloch (Melissa Claire) discovers the funding crisis. Photo by Katie Kelley.

Review of Inspecting Carol
Written by Daniel J. Sullivan
and the Seattle Repertory Theater

Directed by Carol Jordan
Sonoma Arts Live
For tickets / schedule :
Sonoma Community Center, Sonoma
Tickets: $22-37

RUN: November 29 – December 10, 2017
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(November 29, 2017)

Leave your sensibilities at the door for this politically incorrect comedy filled with festive shenanigans. Backstage during final rehearsals for an annual production of A Christmas Carol, the company discovers that their coffers are empty and the National Endowment for the Arts grant has failed to come through. Pinning their hopes on an inspector attending to consider reinstating the grant, they mistakenly believe an amateur actor is in fact the representative in disguise.

This error causes a waterfall of questionable choices in the tradition of Noises Off and The Inspector General, culminating with the most dreadful production of A Christmas Carol I have ever seen—dreadfully funny that is. Scenery topples, the Ghost forgets his lines, and the mayhem reaches a point where stage director M. J. (Alexis Evon) stumbles off, doubled over with hysterical laughter.

Inspecting Carol is not a heartwarming “Hallmark Channel” holiday play; it is a crude, boisterous parody of the catastrophes that can happen outside an audience’s view, with exaggerated characters ruthlessly mocking theater traditions. The acting warmup scene was particularly well done, with newcomer Walter astounded at the other cast members smelling and squeezing imaginary lemons, passing them around through the air, led by Nellie Cravens as Dorothy Tree Hapgood.

Sonoma Arts Live - Inspecting Carol

Wayne Wellacre (Nicolas Christenson) interprets Richard III in a unique fashion. Photo by Katie Kelley.

Director Carl Jordan has gathered a talented group of local actors, and brings out their strengths. Wayne Wellacre (Nicolas Christenson) auditions for the company with a creative, highly animated opening to Richard III, dramatically whacking his shoulders for “our bruised arms hung up for monuments.” Walter E. Parsons (Dorian Lockett) is aghast at the lack of organization and haphazard rehearsal style. Luther Beatty (Ty Schoeningh) is a Tiny Tim who is too old for the part, making up for it with pure spunk, ironically the most professional member of the fictional company.

Their director, Zorah Bloch (Melissa Claire) will go to any length to secure the grant, with amusing results, which distracts her from the wildly inappropriate scene edits by Larry Vauxhall (Larry Williams) who is taking out his personal issues on her script. His rewritten version of the Cratchit family Christmas turns into a rant on the lack of funding for womens’ healthcare, and the Ghost of Christmas Past is quite alarming, but not in the spectral sense.

Sonoma Arts Live - Inspecting Carol

Larry Vauxhall (Larry Williams) rehearses as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo by Katie Kelley.

Inspecting Carol has the feel of a bawdy Shakespearean comedy and gives the impression of a barely contained train wreck, which is a more accurate depiction of the holiday season than a perfectly trimmed tree and polished production of A Christmas Carol. It is not for everyone, but if you want a break from sentimental plays for a silly, disastrous romp, Sonoma Arts Live is the place to be.