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A KLINGON CHRISTMAS CAROL (2018) theater review

November 28, 2018

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The saying, “There’s an audience for everything” certainly came to mind during the intermission for “A Klingon Christmas Carol”, a passionate and riotous theatrical merging of Star Trek and the Dickens holiday classic. Considering the variety of geek-centric plays and musicals that derive from a wide range of pop cultural or literary sources, it should come as no surprise that there is a place where fans of both iconic properties can find amusement and entertainment in a thoroughly committed production. While one would think the target audience for such a play would be limited to Trekkies or Dickensian aficionados, I can attest that what I experienced during the final night of tech for this play can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of your knowledge of Rura Penthe or an Age of Ascension ritual.

Christmas is never mentioned in this adaptation written by Christopher Kidder-Mostrom and Sasha Warren, and that’s fine considering Klingons have their own holidays and religion, most of which revolve around a messianic figure named Kahless, referenced here along with Sto-Vo-Kor and Gre’Thor, their versions of heaven and hell, respectively. You don’t need to know any of that whatsoever to get on board with “A Klingon Christmas Carol”. If you only know Klingons for their rigged foreheads, you’ll still be able to follow along, mainly due to the timeless Ebenezer Scrooge story that guides you along.

 

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(photo credit: David J. Fowlie)

 

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(photo credit: Jennifer Frankfurter and Photography with Heart)

 

This iteration of Dicken’s novella follows SQuja’ (Tony Bunnell) as a miserly Klingon who has no time for the holiday known as the Long Night, despite the excitement his employee QachIt (Matt Calhoun) and his nephew, vreD (Justin Blankenship) have for the spirit of the season. One night, SQuja’ (pronounced Skoo-jah) is visited by his the ghost of his late business partner, marlI’ (Kent Joseph), who tells him he’ll be visited by three ghosts, one from the Past, ben qeylIs qa’ (a delightful Ann-Claude Rakotoniaina), the Present, DaHjaj qeylIS qa’ (Rhys Read) and Yet-to-Come, pIq qeylIS qa’ (Alex Dematralis), before the night is over. In an effort to show the incorrigible SQuja’ his own selfish cowardice, he is taken on a spiritual journey which reminds him who he was, shows him how others live and what his legacy will be.

As expected, it’s most interesting to see how closely these Klingon characters resemble those who inhabit Dickens world. Along the way, we inevitably encounter Young Scrooge, called SQuja’ qup (Zoe Sjogerman), his first employer Fezziwig, known as veSiwiq (Erin Caswell) and, of course, Tiny Tim, named timHom (Liam Walsh), and the whole production, as directed by John Gleason Teske (with stage management by Shauna Warren) is quite enjoyable and often very funny.

 

Klingon Christmas Carol past

(photo credit: Jennifer Frankfurter and Photography with Heart)

 

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(photo credit: David J. Fowlie)

 

I especially got a kick out of the choice to have a female Vulcan narrator introduce this “Carol”, weaving her way throughout the hour-and-forty-five minute (with the aforementioned intermission) as the audience’s guide. Played by Elise Soeder with cold stoicism and keen slyness, the narrator succeeds in drawing us in while moving the story along.

Other than the narrator, the play is appropriately populated by actors portraying Klingons (although there are some references to humans and Ferengis) and it doesn’t take long to acknowledge the daunting task these actors have as they use the Klingon language (which is translated in English on a screen above and behind them). The trademark guttural language was originally devised by James Doohan (the actor who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott aboard the Starship Enterprise in the original series and in the movies) and later developed by author Marc Okrand, isn’t easy to pick up. I always saw it as a combination of violently clearing your throat and a thick Indo-European branched from Germanic languages. Over the years, classes have been taught on the language and dictionaries have been published to help out those intent on learning the Klingon dialect. In the case of this “Christmas Carol”, there were four translators involved in assisting the playwrights. Most impressive, indeed.

The actor with the most stage time, the one who obviously carries the story, is Bunnell as SQuja’. He definitely exudes a seemingly bottomless reservoir of energy right up until the lights go down. All of the actors make for convincing Klingons, but Bunnell’s boundless lead role certainly came across as the sweatiest.

 

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Klingon Christmas Carol Vred's Story

(photo credit: Jennifer Frankfurter and Photography with Heart)

 

 

The humor in the play is clearly intentional, but it’s the delivery of the committed actors that really lands the comedic moments. Laughs are often gleaned from a silent albeit animated response or conveyed in great physical moments involving stage combat. Since the Klingons are known as a prideful race, somewhat savage race who find honor and camaraderie in their fight skills, it is amusing to see such behavior translated to a story that’s typically known as a moral wake-up call addressing virtues of generosity and giving.

Indeed, what we know of the classic story is present and accounted for here amid all the detailed hair, makeup and costume design (thanks to Meeja Hahn and Tracy Buchman), as well as the seamless and fluid fight choreography by Rachel Flesher. While its not entirely clear where the story is set – could be the Klingon homeward of Qo’noS (Kronos) in the Alpha quadrant – the stage design by Orion Couling, Will Walker and Peter McManus, looks and feels like something that could be straight out of either the Original or Next Generation series.

It’s not such a strange thing to see Klingons merge with Cratchits, after all we’ve seen the  militaristic alien race spout Shakespeare on the big-screen (in 1991’s Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country”) and seen a 1992 Muppet musical comedy of “A Christmas Carol” become a cult hit. It’s highly logical for viewers to walk out of this theatrical production with a renewed appreciation for the source material, regardless of how curious or boldly they walked in.

RATING: ***

 

Klingon Christmas Carol amber

(photo credit: Jennifer Frankfurter and Photography with Heart)

 

klingonxmasstage

(photo credit: David J. Fowlie)

 

“A Klingon Christmas Carol” is presented by the Edge of Orion Theatre here in Chicago and opens this week, running from November 30th through December 16th. You can find more details, as well as ticket info here.

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2018 9:56 am

    Wonderful review, and the fact that one of the leads in this play is my son has not added any bias to my opinion! You are spot on!

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 29, 2018 9:59 am

      Thanks! He was great as well!

  2. November 29, 2018 3:41 pm

    I was fortunate to work with the first, (And third incarnations), of “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” here in Chicago. Along side the authors and directors, Christopher and Sasha. I was hired to videotape both those year’s stage productions. It’s great to see the production still running, and the great, yet subtle evolution, since the first run, back in 2010. Every now and then I’ll pop in the Blu-ray of either year, to see it once again. Although, I am dying to see the ‘live’ actor’s portrayal of timHom. (Back in the first few runs, timhom was played by a puppet, managed by a puppeteer) I’m told there have been a few new Klingon words added, by Mark Okrand, himself, since I was involved. So, that in itself is also a treat. My Klingon has gotten a little rusty. So, I may just take the original video crew to see this incarnation, of what’s become one of our cinematic high points, for the videography company. In any case Q’Plah!

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 29, 2018 3:49 pm

      I didn’t mention it in the review, but there’s some truly creepy use of puppets in this production!

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