It's hard to believe there's still an audience out there for yet another treatment of A Christmas Carol, hands down the most torturously overproduced play of the millennium. On the other hand, few things are more welcome than the chance to tear apart a classic for your holiday pleasure.
The Star Bar Players offer a fun-filled evening at the expense of Dickens' time-tested characters, turning the story on its head as it suffers the indignity of a local theater company production in this play-within-a-play. The show's primary shortcoming is its central plot device of mistaken identity -- since the audience is in on the secret, it's hard to accept the foolish bungling of the misinformed characters, but the device simply sets up the comic possibilities of shredding the original script, and that's where the fun lies.
The strongest performance onstage comes from Mark Hennessy in the role of Wayne Wellacre, a wannabe actor who uses a 30-day bus pass to shop his talents around to every theater within walking distance of a Greyhound station. Hennessy is hilariously horrendous as the inept actor, and as he worms his way into the role of ghost, playwright, directing consultant and not-so-Tiny Tim, we live through a director's worst nightmare.
John Miller warms into the role of Larry, the actor playing Scrooge, although he stumbles through his delivery early in the play. Miller captures Larry's disaffection and his desire to contemporize the play after too many years "pulling our punches on Tiny Tim's sexuality." Much of the second act's comic momentum depends on Miller, and he aptly meets the challenge.
The production has its share of "artistic deficits," but the ever-present sound of Marley's chains rattling offstage and a few confused lighting cues are easily passed off in the "I-meant-to-do-that" realm of the disaster within the play. Ultimately, the onstage festivities make "one hell of a splash" and an evening of catharsis for theatergoers.