A Klingon Christmas Carol
Around this time of year, the last thing most audiences want is yet another take on "A Christmas Carol." What most audiences don't know is that they really do want the take offered by Commedia Beauregard Chicago in "A Klingon Christmas Carol," which is more earnest, interesting and delightful than something so gimmicky sounding has any right to be.
The adaptation by Christopher Kidder-Mostrom (CBT's artistic director) and Sasha Wolloch is a lean retelling of the Dickens story balanced with through knowledge of and affection for the Klingon culture as elaborated in the "Star Trek" universe.
The story is cleverly framed as an educational performance mounted by the Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology, and the all-Klingon dialogue is supported by well-executed supertitles and English narration.
The result is a genuinely enlightening take on the story and an intriguing, nuanced exploration of a culture created in a context that's too often dismissed as nothing but clumsy stereotypes.
The set, wisely, is minimal in favor of richly detailed costumes (designed by Jeff Stolz, constructed by Kidder-Mostrom), respectable-to-excellent prosthetics (designed by Bill Hedrick), and a tight lighting (Erik Van Tassell, who also directs) and sound design (Joe Griffin). The solid production design is complemented by effective use of the Raven Theatre's space and Zach Livingston's fight choreography.
But the real success of the show is in the commitment and talent of the cast, led by Kevin Alves as SQuja'. Alves plays the pathos, humor, and drama of SQuja' with such perfectly over-the-top vigor that he sets the Kabuki-adjacent bar for the rest of the cast. Erik Johnson stands out for his more than plausible Young SQuja'.
Mike Danovich proves a worthy guide for SQuja' as the Ghost of qeyllS Past. Although it was a very minor disappointment that the production didn't fully commit to the swarthy-skinned, wispy-mustached Klingon look from the original series, the authentic costume and combination the lighting cue/classic transporter sound was good for a laugh every time. Similarly, a jocular Klingon is no small order, but Phil Zimmermann manages to fill it as qeyllS Present.
Other standouts in the supporting cast included David Coupe as vreD and Ali Kidder-Mostrom as marja', his wife. The TImHom puppet (designed by Kat Pleviak of Sea Beast puppet company and operated by Josh Zagoren) deserves special mention all on his own. The puppet is almost disturbingly expressive and the interaction with the actors is so natural that the completely undisguised presence the operator became irrelevant.
But over and above individual performers the whole cast is really quite consistently good and works well together-especially notable given the linguistic and physical demands of the show.
"A Klingon Christmas Carol" runs through Dec. 30 at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Streetin Chicago. For info or tickets, visit http://www.cbtheatre.org/box-office/.