Bowie Community Theatre Inspecting CarolBy Betsy Marks Delaney • Mar 24th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Bowie Community Theatre
Bowie Playhouse, Bowie, MD
$15/$10 Seniors and Students
Playing through April 4th
Reviewed March 22nd, 2009
In 1990, Daniel Sullivan, former Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theatre, in collaboration with several members of Seattle Rep at the time, wrote Inspecting Carol, a wacky tribute to theatre about theatre. First performed in 1992, the comedy is inspired by The Government Inspector (better known as Danny Kaye’s The Inspector General) as well as personalities from Seattle Rep itself. It is this self-knowledge that makes the situations and dialogue so laugh-out-loud funny. Anyone who has spent time in the process of creating theatre, whether professional or community, will likely recognize at least a few of the personalities presented in this play. This show has a lot to offer in the way of in-jokes and recognizable situations. In the context of current events, there isn’t a theatre company that isn’t worried about funding and how to survive in tough economic times. There is some mature language, unsurprisingly, making this performance not appropriate for young children. The show ran a little over 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
The Soapbox, a regional professional non-profit theatre in a small Midwestern town, depends on its annual production of A Christmas Carol to provide the income it needs to support its productions through the rest of their season. Unfortunately, the stale production (twelfth annual), “personnel issues” and a sudden loss of half the company’s subscriber base combine to threaten the company’s existence. To ice the cake, funding expected from the National Endowment for the Arts (N.E.A.) now depends on an unscheduled inspection. Enter Wayne Wellacre (John Nunemaker), a computer dweeb with pretensions toward acting. Mistaken for the unnamed inspector, Wayne is given his choice of roles. Properly bewildered but game to participate and even rewrite the script, with suggestions from Larry (Mike Dunlop), the world-weary “Scrooge” whose disastrous personal life invades his portrayal, Wayne quickly discovers he’s in way over his head. The ensuing mess brings the company to the verge of implosion.
The craziness builds slowly (sometime a bit too slowly), but builds to a crescendo of impending disaster. It starts with Kevin (James Jager) and Luther (Cory Jeweler), gamely trying to bring the audience in and warming them up via ukulele renditions of Christmas and holiday songs. In fact, some of the most highly entertaining parts of the show have to do with Jager’s manic, over-the-top performance, somewhat reminiscent of Jerry Lewis. As Mary Jane (M.J.), Nancy Dall provides a hilariously smooth and professional illustration of the overworked stage manager. Zorah (Carole Long) the overly dramatic Artistic Director, tries ineptly to work around Larry’s eccentricities while accommodating Wayne. Walter (Derrick Springfield) plays the victim of a “diversity initiative,” taking his roles as the three ghosts and mashing them to a pulp, all the while bemoaning the smell of his costumes and his inability to rehearse his parts.
Joe Thompson‘s direction has brought this surprisingly complex and enjoyable comedy to the stage. Bowie Playhouse’s proscenium stage has been converted to a thrust-style space, with the cast seated on one side and the audience watching from another. In such a small space, it’s tough to provide enough area to keep the actors from blocking each other while seated in “the house.” The proscenium also separates the action onstage from the audience just enough to keep the fourth wall closed for the most part, making Jager’s amusing opening “warm up” songs, written by Joe Thompson, curiously out of place. The theatrical trickery works well, although it isn’t easy to suspend disbelief enough to imagine that this is a professional theatre company.
With a very nice comic twist at the end, it’s worth the price of admission. On the whole, I recommend the production.
Thank goodness for laughter. Did you know that laughing has a profound effect on your mind, your body and your spirit? From reducing stress hormones like cortisol to giving your internal organs a massage and exercising your diaphragm, its benefits are well documented. And it feels soooo good.
But humor also increases our wisdom, by helping us gain perspective – laugh at ourselves and see the absurdity and irony that surround our lives. In case you haven’t figured it out yet: I like to laugh. I imagine that you do, too.
This play is about a group of dysfunctional people who take themselves very seriously. They happen to be a theater group, but they could be any group that spends a lot of time together – at work, at school, church or synagogue. OK, I’m being way too coy here; let’s cut to the chase: One of these people is probably you. You probably never get the chance to stand outside of yourself and watch the silliness that is life, so we are doing it for you. How cool is that?
I have to say that there were times when the problems involved with putting on a production have blurred the boundaries between us and the characters in the play. (My favorite line from Shakespeare in Love tells us that theater is “Insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster” but it all works out well in the end.)
Any way, enjoy the show and as an old song said so well “Live, love, laugh and be happy” although perhaps a more apropos lyric might be “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”
- M.J. (Mary Jane) McMann: Nancy Dall
- Wayne Wellchance: John Nunemaker
- Zorah Bloch: Carole Long
- Luther Beatty: Cory Jeweler
- Dorothy Tree Hapgood: Nina Harris
- Sidney Carlton: Bill Jones
- Phil Hewlitt: Pat Reynolds
- Walter E. Parsons: Derrick Springfield
- Kevin Emery: James Jager
- Bart Frances: Eric Tobin
- Larry Vauxhall: Mike Dunlop
- Betty Andrews: Jo Rake
- Producer: Janice Coffey
- Director: Joe Thompson
- Assistant Director: Robby Rose
- Stage Manager: Diana Ho
- Fight Choreographer: James Jager
- Opening song: James Jager
- Original music: Joe Thompson
- Set Designer: Garrett Hyde, Joe Thompson
- Set Construction Crew: Duane Rouch, Rob Whetzel, Keith Brown, Patrick
- Ready, Rich Fogg
- Set Painters: Cynthia Bentley, Diana Ho, Claudia McKibbin, Cassandra
- McKibbin, John Nunemaker
- Set Dressing: Joe Thompson, Diana Ho, Robby Rose, Cynthia Bentley
- Stage Crew: Claudia McKibbin, Cassandra McKibbin
- Special Effects: Cynthia Bentley, Rob Whetzel, Rich Fogg, Patrick Ready
- Properties: Jennifer Harvey
- Light Designer: Garrett Hyde
- Sound Designer: Garrett Hyde
- Seamstress: Jane Lecher
- Costume Consultants: Karen Spitzer, Janice Coffey
- Theater Technicians: Garrett Hyde, Al Chopey, Pete Dursin
- Production Assistant: Mike Dunlop
- Mailing Administration: Galen Menne
- Photographer: Fred Bentley
- Videographer: Dove Video
- Graphic/Program Designer: Debbie Samek
- Advertising/Publicity: Janice Coffey
- Webmaster: Myron Cramer
- House Manager: Joanne Bauer
- Lobby Designer: Janice Coffey
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/3638.
Betsy Marks Delaney is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.