REVIEW: A Klingon Christmas Carol (Commedia Beauregard)

  
  

Fun, fresh retelling of Klingon holiday classic

   
  

A Klingon Christmas Carol at the Greenhouse Theater Center

   
Commedia Beauregard and the Klingon Assault Group presents
 
A Klingon Christmas Carol   
   
By Christopher O. Kidder and Sasha Walloch
Directed by Christopher O. Kidder
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
Through Dec. 19  | 
Tickets: $32  |   more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

Charles Dickens’ enduring holiday ghost story, "A Christmas Carol" has been translated into scores of languages since he wrote it in 1843, but by far the oddest has to be the tongue in which Minnesota-based Commedia Beauregard stages its surprisingly successful production at Greenhouse Theater Center in Lincoln Park. A Klingon Christmas Carol is performed almost entirely in Klingon, the artificial language invented by linguist Marc Okrand for the "Star Trek" movies.

037_A Klingon Christmas Carol - Commedia Beauregard by Mr. Guy F. WickeProjected English subtitles and narrator provide context for those of who don’t speak the language, and the storyline has been adapted somewhat. Klingons don’t celebrate Christmas, so a festival called the "Feast of the Long Night" substitutes, a time when the warlike race holds tournaments to uphold clan honor and put their young through a grueling coming-of-age ritual. Scrooge is not only the antisocial skinflint he is in Dickens’ original but also a coward — a plot better fitting the context of the warrior culture of the Klingons, as developed in the TV series and films.

While there are plenty of in-jokes and references to delight the "Star Trek" buffs, you don’t have to know much about Klingons or the series to follow along. Klingons have evolved some since I last paid attention. When the 1960s-era "Star Trek" TV series began, during the height of the Cold War, Klingons resembled Russians. For the films, they got a remake to be more exotic and ugly, a transformation that was only explained much later in the canon. Except for the old-style Ghost of Kahless Past (Zach Livingston), the play presents latter-day, bumpy forehead Klingons.

Written by Christopher O. Kidder and Sasha Walloch and translated into Klingon by Kidder, Laura Thurston, and Bill Hedrick (who also designed the Klingon heads), with help from Chris Lipscombe, (who attended the opening clad in full Klingon regalia), the play has been performed in Minnesota for the past three years. This marks its Chicago premiere.

   
023_A Klingon Christmas Carol - Commedia Beauregard by Mr. Guy F. Wicke 002_A Klingon Christmas Carol - Commedia Beauregard by Mr. Guy F. Wicke
klingonxmas_262 by Mr. Guy F. Wicke 013_A Klingon Christmas Carol - Commedia Beauregard by Mr. Guy F. Wicke

I’m not qualified to comment on how good the translation is — they could be repeating "inka binka" for all I know — but the show works well on many levels. A broad acting style, coupled with the unknown language and masklike makeup give the show an intriguing similarity to Kabuki, the traditional Japanese theatrical genre. The adapted story fits into that convention as well. It’s convincingly foreign and yet familiar. Kevin Alves shines as SQuja’, the Scrooge character, cringing and ducking and crawling under tables.

Sara Wolfson, who plays the pointy-eared Vulcan narrator offering context, strikes me as a bit too animated and expressive to be one of the supposedly emotionless race exemplified by Leonard Nimoy, but it’s a minor flaw. The rest of the large cast all play multiple roles ably, though the actors sometimes rely too obviously on the floor-height teleprompters they’re using for cues.

Jeff Stoltz’s costumes would win prizes at any "Star Trek" convention. I’d have liked to have seen more exciting fight choreography and a less sketchy set, and the subtitle operator needs to keep pace better with the action.

Overall, though, A Klingon Christmas Carol provides a fun, fresh approach to an old classic. If you ever enjoyed "Star Trek," you’ll want to see it.

   
 
Rating: ★★★   
  
 

029_A Klingon Christmas Carol - Commedia Beauregard by Mr. Guy F. Wicke

All photos by Guy F. Wicke

 

 

  
  

Klingon Convention / Blood Drive

 

   
   

Production Personnel

 

Creative Team

Playwrights: Christopher O. Kidder & Sasha Walloch
Translated by: Laura Thurston, Bill Hedrick, and Christopher O. Kidder
Additional Content and Translation by: Chris Lipscombe
Original Score by: Mike Hallenbeck
Lyrics to qu’wI’ by: Terrence Donnelly

 

Production Team

Director: Christopher O. Kidder
Assistant Director: Sasha Walloch
Stage Manager: Celia Forrest
Fight Choreographer: Brian Connelly
Asst. Fight Choreographers: Zach Livingston & Sasha Walloch
Costume Design: Jeff Stolz
Weapons Master: Jeff Kehoe
Set Design: Christopher O. Kidder
Sound Design: Christopher O. Kidder
Prosthetic Design: Bill Hedrick
Puppet Design & Construction: Kat Pleviak, Sea Beast Puppet Company
Language Coaches: Chris Lipscombe
Graphic Design: Christopher O. Kidder
Publicity: Guy F. Wicke

 

Cast

     
Kevin Alves SQuja’ Scrooge
Sara Wolfson Narrator Narrator
Jesse Manson Qachlt Bob Cratchit
Jake Jones vreD Fred
Clark Bender Huch Qo’wl’ 1 Fundraiser 1
Jen Usellis emll’, Huch Qo’wl’ 2 Mrs. Cratchit, Fundraiser 2
Sunny Sampson marll’, Warrior 3 Jacob Marley
Zack Livingston Kahless Past Christmas Past
Christina Romano Qe’pa, Warrior 2 a youth
Jesse Manson Qob a youth
Andrew Brown-Thomas Young SQuja Young Scrooge
Alison Faraj van Fannie
Clark Bender veSlwiq Fezziwig
Manuel Twillie, Jr. wllqlnS, Guest 3 Dick Wilkins
Piper Sagan bel, marDa’ Belle, Martha Cratchit
Zachary Serota Warrior 1, Guest 2  
Philip Zimmermann Kahless Present Christmas Present
Ellen Cribbs marja’ Mrs. Fred
Alison Faraj timHom Tiny Tim
Manuel Twillie, Jr. Kahless Yet-To-Come Christmas Future
     
     

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