Inspecting Carol | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Inspecting Carol 

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INSPECTING CAROL, Circle Theatre. This lighthearted comedy--about a half-baked, financially strapped theater company trying to cope with both its annual production of A Christmas Carol and the sudden appearance of an NEA inspector--is a fine alternative to the treacly Scrooges and Nutcrackers that usually clot up theaters around the holidays. Unfortunately Easter is just around the corner, and I am so over Christmas.

Still, the Circle Theatre folks do a credible if uneven job of bringing to life this sweet, shallow comedy, written by Daniel Sullivan and the Seattle Repertory Company. Some of the cast members are clearly up to the challenge of wringing laughs out of merely OK material; Ty Perry is particularly funny as the beleaguered African-American brought in to "diversify" the company--Perry's comic timing and presence are so strong he gets laughs just by entering. Others are less comically adept. John Simmons, apparently taking a lesson from Pauly Shore, works way too hard to make his character--an annoying nerd mistaken for the NEA inspector--funny, with the result that almost nothing he says or does raises a smile.

Thankfully, most of the cast are less like Simmons than like Perry, though none equals him. And thanks to their hard work, this diverting play passes as easily as an afternoon in front of the TV set--a set that, for some inexplicable reason, is still playing Christmas shows in March. --Jack Helbig

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