An Irish Carol, a lovely spin on its British cousin, at Keegan (review)

Like its English cousin, An Irish Carol is a dramatic look at life on a day when it should be most celebrated and filled with peace, hope, and love. Unlike its cousin, there are no actual ghosts, but plenty of past, present, and potentially future sorrows turn-up. As they are wont to do when the beer tap flows.  

At a pub in Dublin, it’s Christmas Eve and aging owner Dave (Kevin Adams) opens his doors, hoping to drum up some cash for his struggling business. This means he’ll also open the next day, much to the surprise of his young Polish employee Bartek (Josh Adams), who realizes he won’t be able to spend the day with his wife and young daughter.

Matt Hirsh and Kevin Adams in An Irish Carol at Keegan Theatre (Photo: Cameron Whitman)

In trickles a couple of regulars, Jim (Mark A. Rhea) and Frank (Timothy H. Lynch), who trade jabs and the occasional pearl of wisdom. Others come and go throughout the blustery night: Michael (Mike Kozemchak), Dave’s younger brother who beseeches him to close down and join his family; Simon (Matthew Hirsh), who used to work for Dave, and Anna (Caroline Dubberly), his new fiancée; and finally Richard (Mick Tinder). Dave’s one time friend turned nemesis. Because of girl. Ahh, a tale as old as time: the Love Triangle. This one, though, was long ago decided, and not in Dave’s favor, a fact he can’t forget or forgive, even in death. For Bernie, the love of his life and Richard’s wife, died only a year earlier.

This is the sixth year Keegan has run An Irish Carol, so the surprises are few, but it is—like the best Christmas fare and despite some dramatic twists—a heartwarming yarn about the best in us trumping the worst. It’s buoyed by touches of humor, courtesy mostly of Frank and Jim, who curse like sailors (or, really, like the Irish if you’ve ever been in an actual Dublin pub) but mean well in all they say. Jim loves being married and offers some kind advice to Simon and Anna. Frank—the eternal bachelor—gets piss drunk, but he’s still cognizant enough to offer a sobering truth to Dave, who’s disappointed with his lot and has upset everyone else that night, including Richard who was just fulfilling Bernie’s last wish.

“Must be exhausting,” Frank says to Dave as he bundles up after talking about his own father, who died alone, “being a grumpy old fart all the time.”

Caroline Dubberly, Matt Hirsh, Timothy H. Lynch, Josh Adams and Mark A. Rhea in An Irish Carol at Keegan Theatre (Photo: Cameron Whitman)

Naturally, Dave finds redemption, encouraged by some age old stalwarts: wisdom, kindness, empathy. And, ultimately, friendship and love.

The show largely rests on the shoulders of Kevin Adams, who portrays Dave with an immense amount sorrow wrapped in anger with nary a word. You understand his pain though you never get the full picture of his past nor his personal take on it.  He shows you that it is there. And that is enough. His moments of quiet, as he sneaks glances of his customers’ interactions or steals a cigarette out back are just as revealing as, and more affecting than, any exposition.

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Want to go?
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An Irish Carol
5stars
closes December 31, 2016 
Details and tickets
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Lynch, Rhea, and Josh Adams—whose Bartek walks into a couple of funny cultural misunderstandings—provide the right amount of levity to balance all the drama, which Tinder, Hirsh, Dubberly, and Kozemchak heighten during confrontations with Dave.  It’s a very real cast, grounded by a moody set and lighting that’ll have you wanting to spend your Christmas Eve in Ireland.

An Irish Carol is a lovely spin on the traditional Christmas tale surely on its way to becoming a classic in its own right.

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An Irish Carol by Matthew Keenan. Directed by Mark A. Rhea. Featuring Kevin Adams, Mike Kozemchak, Timothy H. Lynch, Caroline Dubberly, Mark A. Rhea, Josh Adams, Mick Tinder, and Matthew Hirsh. Production: Matthew Keenan, Set Design; Dan Martin, Lighting Design; Kelly Peacock, Costume Design; Jake Null, Sound Design; Alexis J. Hartwick, Set Dressing and Properties; Sheri S. Herren, Assistant Director; and Craig Miller, Hair and Makeup Design. Stage Manager; Carol H. Baker . Produced by Keegan Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.

Kelly McCorkendale About Kelly McCorkendale

Kelly McCorkendale is a dog-lover, avid quilter, and occassional creative writer who loves the color orange and boycotts cable (except “Game of Thrones” because, well, what if winter is coming!?). After college, she realized poets weren’t in demand, so she shipped off to Madagascar with Peace Corps. Since then, she’s found a niche working on health systems in Africa but has a long-list of life tasks yet to be fulfilled–such as perform blackmail, learn a trade, and become a competitive eater. She has an MA in International Education, believes rice is the elixir of life, and, in high school, won the best supporting actress honor for the state of Missouri. She may also recite poetry (her first love) when imbibing in alcohol.

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