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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of “A Christmas Carol”

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of “A Christmas Carol”
By David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr.
Directed by Matt Pfeiffer
Starring Karel K. Wright and Anne Hering
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

High up stage right hangs a Union Jack, facing it stage left is an oil portrait of Her Nibs, the QE 2. In between lies a faithful replica of a church basement hall complete with faux asbestos tiles where we find Americans doing British comedy. Or a parody of British comedy, the gag is this is a community theatre with a track record of disaster about to tackle the oldest holiday chestnut on the fire. That which is bad, is intentional.

Preshow we have Mrs. Reece (Wright) chatting up the audience and reminding me of Dame Edna. She’s pleasantly loud and tweedy with matching plaid purse and jacket as she screens the audience for Act Two victims. Her cast is stuck in traffic, she vamps back stage with the Stage manger Gordon (Paul Romero) and debates how to amuse the punters until the cast arrives. As she’s recruiting audience member the real cast flusters in. Lead Scrooge Thelma (Hering) wears a stunning turquoise vintage number, Cratchity Mercedes (Suzanne O’Donnell) minces across stage with a bad back and a neck brace and it’s up to pleasant Felicity (Kelly Kilgore) to keep a stiff upper lip and play all the other Dickensians. The show is a planned flight into terrain, disastrous but silly as double entendres and props topples along with sight gags like Gordon’s permanent shirt-tail-out-the-fly and third wall breaking monologs from Ms. Reece. The highlight of the set was the vertical bed Scrooge occupies between ghosties; it’s an exceptionally exaggerated cheat that you just want to buy into.

What wasn’t in Farndale was a reason to like or hate anyone on stage, Individual performances were fine, Ms. Herring came across as the “real” actress of the company, bravely trouping along despite the unprofessionalism of her fellow townswomen. Everyone had a shtick – Gordon’s accent wavered between South Midlands and South Appalachia, Mercedes’ plucky acting through the pain, Felicity’s verve in her vaudeville coat and tails. Some back stage conflict would have helped – a love triangle, some bad blood here or there, but instead everyone rolled with the punches, reset the props, and did a decent job of “improving” though the missed cues. Things would have been tighter without the intermission, and the audience charades segment really dragged. Even putting an embarrassed patron in a dress could have been cut – The British Holiday pantomime is traditionally full of drag, but this guy looked really uncomfortable. Beyond that, the set by Bob Phillips was beautiful, the gags worked, and the story of redemption via indigestion was still enough to keep the purists happy. It’s the season of light entertainment and heavy drinking, but keep your expectations low.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit
http://www.orlandoshakes.org

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