BWW Review: AN IRISH CAROL Serves Up a Pint at Keegan Theatre

Adapting Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is somewhat of a requirement for established theatre companies. There are many versions of the tale from musicals, CGI movies, radio plays, and irreverent comedies. Playwright (and Keegan Theatre Company Member) Matthew Keenan adds his version to the litany of adaptations and does so with a delightful spin in An Irish Carol.

Mr. Keenan's Dickensian work, now in its 6th annual production at Keegan Theatre opened this week in the intimate theater on Church Street in Dupont. The play revolves around a Scrooge-like miser, Dave (Kevin Adams), the proprietor of a Dublin bar, aptly named Diskins. As to be expected in these sort of tales, Dave sees how horrible is through the visit of "ghosts". One of Mr. Keenan's brilliant choices is to eschew the usual convention of having our antihero be visited by ghosts and have be visited by "ghosts" from his past and present.

Local barflies Jim and Frank (played by director Mark A. Rhea and Timothy H. Lynch) are Dave's first visitors who point out to new employee Bartek (Josh Adams) that Dave wasn't always like this and lead Bartek, and by default the audience, through Dave's past and how he changed over time through the loss of love. Mr. Lynch's portrayal as the bachelor-drunk, Frank, is one of the acting highlights of the show, playing Frank with subtle loneliness that is not evident in the script.

Dave is next visited by his younger brother Michael (Mike Kozemchak), who shows Dave how his present self is unloving to his family and his young employee. His final visitor is former protégé Simon and his fiancé Anna. Simon (Matthew Hirsh) is here to show him a glimpse of his future: sell him his bar, so he can retire and it can be added to his chain of pubs in Dublin. Anna, played with tenderness by Caroline Dubberly, is there to serve as Dave's moral authority, and her scene with Dave towards the end is one of the best understated moments of the show.

Finally, Dave is visited by former colleague and best friend Richard (Mick Tinder), who was married to Dave's former flame, Bernie, who recently passed away. The final moments between the two characters and Dave's Scrooge-like transformation is what gives An Irish Carol its heart.

The production is a mixed bag of performances. Fortunately for the audience, Mr. Adams as Dave carries the weight of the show, and his portrayal is flawless. He is over-the-top when necessary, and subtle and understated in moments. One of Mr. Adams' best parts is when bits of exposition are being discussed in the bar, and Dave goes out back for a smoke, and just watching Mr. Adams silently reflect on his life and decisions shows us the human emotion that most portrayals of Mr. Scrooge lack. The cast has a clear separation of acting veterans and young actors, and the difference in portrayals is evident, but it is not a detriment to the production. The strong performances by the veterans carry the weight of the performance and make for an overall strong production.

This is a delightful way to spend 90 minutes and realize the true meaning of Christmas.

An Irish Carol plays through December 31, 2016 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tickets for Ruthless! can be purchased online or by calling 202-265-3767.

Photo Credits: Cameron Whitman

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From This Author Keith Tittermary

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