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L to R: Wayne Tetrick as Larry & Edgar L. Davis as Walter. Photo: Lindsay Raymondjack
L to R: Wayne Tetrick as Larry & Edgar L. Davis as Walter. Photo: Lindsay Raymondjack

Theatre review: Inspecting Carol at Vermont Stage

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Vermont Stage Company has opened their season with Inspecting Carol, which will run through November 4. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

Vermont Stage Company has opened their season in Burlington's FlynnSpace with a lively production of INSPECTING CAROL by Daniel Sullivan.  Loosely based on Gogol's INSPECTOR GENERAL, the plot centers around an incompetent and financially struggling theatre company's annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  Due to be evaluated by an official from the NEA, they mistake an inexperienced and very bad actor for the official and hilarity ensues.  Playwright Sullivan has written stereotypical characters that can be found in every small and long-established theatre company.

Ruth Wallman as Dorothy and Jim Reid as Sidney rise above the stereotypes and bring their characters to three-dimensional life.  Miss Wallman's acting warm-up is very funny as is their scene together about their Shakespeare duo.  The latter is also very touching, especially Mr. Reid's beaming pride in his Troilus.  These two are real people.

Jason P. Lorber also does a believable job as Kevin, the harried business manager dealing with the company's problematic cash flow.  Wayne Tetrick is good as Larry, who wants to make the play more relevant by changing the happy ending.  His presentation of his re-writes is very funny, and he does give his character some depth.

However, Andrew Sellon's performance as Wayne, the supposed official, is such a broad caricature that he's never believable.  His wide-eyed vacancy worked in THE FOREIGNER, but doesn't in this.  The rest of the large cast plays their characters as written - two-dimensional stereotypes.

Where the production really takes off is in the fractured performance of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  The ghost of Christmas Present freezing and becoming speechless with Scrooge desperately trying to cover, Bob Crachit unable to lift Tiny Tim, and especially Marley's Ghost with his clanking chains caught in a stage light are all hilarious and wonderful pieces of slapstick.

Jeff Moderger's set works well, particularly that for A CHRISTMAS CAROL, with its silly pop-ups and collapsing back-drop.  Rachel Kurland's costumes are good and those for the ghosts very funny.  John Forbes has done his usual fine job on the lighting.

Director Mark Nash has done an excellent job of staging the play, especially the production section.  I could have wished he'd gotten more character development from the cast, although I know it's difficult when the characters are so under-written.  Miss Wallman and Mr. Reid are the only two who come through with full-blown characters.

I may seem too picky about the acting, which is partly the fault of the playwright, but that's my job.  However let me say that the audience thoroughly enjoyed INSPECTING CAROL.  As my companion said, it has lots of good belly laughs.  The mental picture of the stage manager slithering out on her stomach to try to saw the clanking light off Marley's chain has stayed with me and makes me chuckle.

On a scale of one to five the Vermont Stage Company's production of INSPECTING CAROL gets four ferry boats.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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