Review: AN IRISH CAROL Warms at Keegan Theatre

By: Dec. 15, 2015

This holiday season, Dublin, Ireland has its own "Scrooge" to reform on a windy Christmas Eve in the Keegan Theatre's beloved holiday tradition, AN IRISH CAROL. Written by Matthew J Keenan and directed by Mark A. Rhea, AN IRISH CAROL is back on stage for its five year anniversary.

AN IRISH CAROL is a present day Christmas Carol, showing the evening of David, the "scrooge," as he opens the pub on Christmas Eve and is visited by customers and the "three spirits." As David barks orders at his immigrant Polish bartender, Bartek, we learn from a few regulars that David's unpleasant attitude has long been an issue and drives customers away. Throughout the evening, the pub is visited by David's brother, a past business partner and his wife, and an old friend, who help tell the story that led to David's discontent.

A few of the performances particularly stand out. Kevin Adams shines as a brooding David, capturing the complexity of the character despite his few lines and primarily unhappy demeanor. Josh Sticklin's Bartek is loveable and hopeful as we become invested in his character and come to care about his family, whom we never meet. Timothy Hayes Lynch plays a humorous yet thoughtful Frank, whose comic relief is emphasized through perfected timing.

Some of the production's strongest elements are the small, foreshadowing moments from a few of the characters. Before we learn that Anna, a past business-partner's wife, reminds David of his ex-lover, we can immediately sense the shift in tension from David; when Anna mentions she works with children with special needs, Bartek's flinch makes us wonder. These small reactions become even more impressive considering that these moments occur while everyone on stage is focused and reacting together.

Keenan's script captures the biting Irish sense of humor and provides an array of emotion for the actors and actress. The play is not plot-driven, which works as long as one does not go into the performance with that expectation. At times, the pacing felt slow and monologues long, but this also could have been helped through some stronger line deliveries. Much of David's story is told through other characters. While this works, David's character (and actor) is so strong, one may find themselves wishing to see David establish more of his character depth and development throughout the story's unraveling.

The Keegan Company's and Carol H. Baker's set design and dressing creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere for the pub. The set integrates new media, particularly four panels that surround the scene on stage and help set the atmosphere with video of snow and static "paintings" that show people bustling down the chilly streets. The costume designs, created by Kelly Peacock, also add to the warmth of the pub and season and character archetypes.

Overall, AN IRISH CAROL is a fun holiday show and tradition for Keegan Theatre that honors Charles Dickens' classic story while also adding an Irish flair and a contemporary spin. If you're looking for entertainment this holiday season, AN IRISH CAROL could become a holiday tradition for you, too.

AN IRISH CAROL plays at The Keegan Theatre (1742 Church St NW, Washington, DC 20036) until December 31.

Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets for the production can be purchased online at keegantheatre.com or by calling the box office (202-265-3767).



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