‘An Irish Carol’ at The Keegan Theatre

An Irish Carol is an Irish twist on the holiday classic A Christmas Carol, written by one of Keegan’s own company members, Irish-born Matthew Keenan, and directed by Mark Rhea. The play premiered in 2011 and has been performed year after year at Keegan, making An Irish Carol its own holiday tradition in Washington. The play is particularly fitting this year, capping off a year marked by strong productions of the Irish canon in the DC area, from The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Cripple of Inishmaan, and The Dealer of Ballynafeigh, the last of which was produced at Keegan this year.

L to R: Timothy H. Lynch, Susan Marie Rhea, Kevin Adams, and Jon Townson. Photo by Jim Coates.
L to R: Timothy H. Lynch, Susan Marie Rhea, Kevin Adams, and Jon Townson. Photo by Jim Coates.

Kevin Adams plays David, recognizable from the outset as the Irish Scrooge. He runs a pub with a tight fist, berating his young employee Bartek (Josh Sticklin) and darkening corners of the tavern with bad temper and chronic penny-pinching. The night is Christmas Eve in David’s bar, in a simple but effective set design by Carol Baker buttressed with whistling wintry winds (sound design by Jake Null) and moving images of falling snow (projection design by Patrick Lord, with stage management by Alexis Hartwick).

A crowd shuffles in, revealing David in full bah-humbug glory: from his brother Michael (Kozemchak), whose dinner invitation David rejects dismissively, to his former employee Simon (Jon Townson) and new fiancé Anna (Susan Marie Rhea), to an old romantic rival Richard (Mick Tinder). The barstools are warmed by old regulars, Jim (David Jourdan) and Frank (Timothy H. Lynch), friends of David’s whom remember his halcyon days and provide much of the wit and humor in the play. Jim and Frank also provide David’s backstory meant to explain his somber demeanor.

Unlike A Christmas Carol, David will not be visited by literal ghosts of the past and future; this is intended to be a more realistic play, a play about the haunted past we drag around with us and the dark future that awaits a life led in bitterness. Instead, David’s past and future are embodied in the form of Simon, an ambitious younger version of David, and through Frank’s anecdote about his father. However, the revelation that David, a la Scrooge, should change his ways felt too sudden and felt dropped into the play to be consistent with the redemption found in A Christmas Carol. It was difficult for me to believe that a hardened, world-weary rock like David would be suddenly moved by an anecdote by Frank, who himself seems pretty sad and alone.

Kevin Adams (David). Photo by Jim Coates.
Kevin Adams (David). Photo by Jim Coates.

You can tell that this tight-knit cast, which returns again this year, enjoys performing the play together. The audience enjoyed the show and the performances immensely and gave the cast a rousing round of applause. If you are looking for a different take on Dickens’ holiday classic, then An Irish Carol may just be be your pint of Gat.

Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.

An Irish Carol plays through December 31, 2015 at the Keegan Theatre – 1742 Church Street, NW. in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 265-3767,  or purchase them online.

LINKS:

An Irish Carol at The Keegan Theatre reviewed by Lauren Katz on DCMTA.

An Irish Carol at The Keegan Theatre reviewed by Jessica Vaughan on DCMTA.