An Irish Carol does a fine job capturing the spirit and message of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale in an evening spent in an Irish pub. No small feat.
The play, courtesy of author Matthew J. Keenan, is not a direct retelling of A Christmas Carol (and that’s a good thing, as the stage has no shortage of those). But it does draw on the themes of redemption, heartfelt flashes from the past, and the triumph of generosity over miserliness.
The miser in question this time around is bar owner David (Kevin Adams, almost comically gloomy), an aggressively-miserable piece of work so unpleasant, it’s truly a wonder that the pub’s regulars, his old friends, and even his brother still want to have him around. David lashes out at just about anyone who comes into his path, and throughout the Christmas Eve night where the play takes place, that means cruelty thrown at everyone from his well-meaning immigrant bartender (Josh Sticklin) to his longtime customers, including the lascivious old-timer Frank (Timothy H. Lynch, delightful as the old scumbag) and the magnanimous Jim (Mark A. Rhea, warm and sincere), a character who feels like if Norm from Cheers had spent his years drinking across the pond.
An Irish Carol
closes December 31, 2017
Details and tickets
David’s bitterness, of course, stems from regrets from his past, which visit him during An Irish Carol perhaps not as overtly as ghosts from Christmas might, but still with scores to settle. This means throughout the night, David will face off against Simon, a former bartender with a proposition for him (Christian Montgomery, with an awkward nervous energy to him), and Richard, an old rival who might just be ready to put down the sword (Daniel Lyons). It will surprise no one familiar with Dickens that encounters like these (including a sweet scene between him and Simon’s charming, long-suffering girlfriend, Anna) will ultimately put David in a much more kind, benevolent place once morning comes, and “An Irish Carol” captures his transition in a warm, cozy conclusion.
There’s one thing that sets An Irish Carol apart from your average holiday fare: the way it manages to capture the rhythm and the chatter of a typical night shared at a local between longtime guests – the easy intimacy between them, the allusions made to the years of bonds forged there (the show’s transporting, detail-oriented set, designed by the playwright, helps here too). It’s fun to witness the joking affinity between Jim and Frank, and to see how the pair plays off goodhearted bartender, Bartek.
This pub may not be the cheeriest one Ireland’s ever seen, especially with pre-awakening David behind the bar, but An Irish Carol still makes its audience long for that kind of special rapport that only regulars can have with each other.
An Irish Carol. Written by Matthew J. Keenan, Directed by Mark A. Rhea. Set Design: Matthew J. Keenan, Lighting Design: Dan Martin. With Kevin Adams, Josh Sticklin, Mark A. Rhea, Timothy H. Lynch, Michael Kozemchak, Christian Montgomery, Caroline Dubberly, Daniel Lyons. Produced by Keegan Theatre . Reviewed by Missy Frederick.