A Little Theatre Christmas

Holy cow, this review is late.  LATE!  As in, way too late.  As I start to write it, the final performance is just about to get underway, so if you’re planning on seeing it based on THIS review, keep studying at school so you can finally build that time machine you’ve always dreamed of.  Ha ha!  But seriously, I’m fucking useless sometimes.

Actually, this one is overdue in more ways than one, as this is the first Ottawa Little Theatre production I’ve ever gotten around to reviewing on this thing.  Not the first I’ve SEEN…that would be last year’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, that I took my big sister to. A good time, that, and I’m sorry I have not been back (besides a couple of Fringe shows hosted there, and the Eastern Ontario Drama Festival last month to boot) until now, aka two nights ago (sorry!) for their latest show, INSPECTING CAROL, by Daniel Sullivan (and the Seattle Repertory company).  A seasonal show, which I admit to some reticence about, but I’d put off the venerable OLT for too long to miss another outing.  So I hit the grand theatre, hosting Ottawa’s oldest running company (and there are some fabulous photographs gracing the inner walls, of productions from as far back as the 30’s) to get all Xmas’ed up, in what will likely be my last play of the Gregorian year.

Now the OLT, while being arguably Ottawa’s premier amateur theatre company, has a bit of a stuffy reputation…like, old-fashioned.  And hey, when they make you stand for the national anthem before the play, I suppose they ARE a little old-fashioned.  But ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little tradition in one’s theatre.  And CAROL is quite happily non-traditional enough for me, thanks very much. Dan and co.’s script is funny and fast, centering on an ongoing theatre nightmare…money.  “Of COURSE we’re broke,” quips one of the actors onstage, “…we’re an arts organization!”  If only it were a joke.

Centering on a run-down community theatre group’s annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which seems to be declining in quality every year as profits drop and creative dreams wither on the vine.  Bad financial news prompts a crisis only four days from opening night, with troubles already abounding…new actor Walter (a black man, director Zorah’s desperate attempt to be ‘multicultural’) hasn’t even read his lines, leading man Larry threatens to slip into Spanish at any moment, and their Tiny Tim is not only too tall, but barely interested in being there.    Enter Wayne Wellacre, a terrible aspiring actor who is mistaken for a National Endowment for the Arts inspector, come to decide if they get a life-saving grant, and we’re all set up for some goodly shenanigans.

The OLT gang does a solid job (fun set!) with this Christmas farce…once the scene is set, with some buildup that glides quickly by, the final act is a killer hoot.  Shoutouts to Louis Lemire as Larry (whose play INSPERABLE I totally missed at Arts Court this summer…my bad, man!), the inept Scrooge haunted by Hippie dreams and a vengeful ex-wife, and Jenny Sheffield as struggling stage manager MJ, desperately trying to get a moment’s rehearsal time in.  And J.Taylor Morris’ Wayne is hilarious, especially his Richard III audition piece.  It really was a hilite of my theatre year.  Kudos.  A great job all round, I laughed my bony arse off, and even saw my fellow OSSD student Justin there!  Yo, dude, re-up!  Peer Pressure!!!

Guess that’s about it…I’ll make sure and be back for OLT’s next, TRYING, in early January (even tho, is it just me?  Or is there something wonky about the acoustics in that theatre?  Mebbe it’s just me…), and sometimes in the next little while I’ll get my end-of-year piece done…I’ve dawdled enough now, I might as well go with YOUR year…I’ll be able to sneak a couple extra shows into my list that way, at least.  So even tho I’m sure I’m forgetting something (as always), I’ll bid you all peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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