A Klingon Christmas Carol
Written by Christopher Kidder-Mostrom
Christmas/Trekkie mashup a total Qapla’ (success)!
|Commedia Beauregard presents|
|A Klingon Christmas Carol|
Review by Keith Glab
Even if you’ve never read a chapter of Charles Dickens in your life, you know the story of “A Christmas Carol”. Likewise, even if you’ve never watched an episode of Star Trek before, you know what a Klingon is. What genius it took to marry this fictitious alien race with Dickens’ timeless tale in A Klingon Christmas Carol!
After 20 minutes of preshow music from El Troubadour (a pair of Klingons performing Earth classics such as Mr. Roboto on stringed instruments), a Vulcan lecturer (Christopher Kidder-Mostrom) welcomes us to the Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology. He introduces tlhlngan ram nl’bom (Klingon Long Night’s Song), which is the original Klingon text upon which Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is based. The Imperial Klingon Players proceed to perform the piece in tlhlngan Hol (the Klingon language created for Star Trek) with the Vulcan providing interstitial narration and commentary in English. Projected supertitles provide an English translation for the spoken tlhlngan Hol.
Klingon money lender SQuja’ (Philip Zimmermann) goes through a similar journey as the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge does in Dickens’ work, but some cultural differences become evident. His nephew vreD (Matty Robinson) invites him to participate in the “Year Games,” a battle tournament in which SQuja’ is too cowardly to participate. We learn from the Ghost of Kahless Past (Timothy Sullivan) that SQuja’ cheated his way through his Rite of Ascension, and later through the Ghost of Kahless Yet-to-Come (James Gasber) that his succession of dishonorable acts would leave him outside the gates of Sto-vo-kor, or Klingon heaven. In the present, Quachit (Clark Bender) laments that his boss SQuja’ doesn’t give him enough time off in order to properly train his crippled son tlmHom (a Tiny Tim puppet operated and voiced by Elizabeth MacDougald) for his own Rite of Ascension.
That puppet, as with those personifying Apathy (Bender) and Corruption (MacDougald), moves realistically and looks neat, even though none of them are truly crucial to the production. The barrier to Sto-Vo-Kor is well-realized through lighting and sound effects, as is the transporter used by the ghosts to travel through time and space. The hair, makeup, and costumes prove extremely convincing (and hilarious, in the case of the Ghost of Kahless Past). Scenes transition seamlessly with either the Vulcan narration or recorded Christmas carols playing – sung in tlhlngan Hol.
Though the entire ensemble does a terrific job of becoming Klingon in appearance, action, and language, none nail it quite as well as Matty Robinson does. Not only does he possess incredible athleticism for his many battle scenes (literally flying across the stage at a couple of points), but his high energy, haughty demeanor, and exuberance for life authenticate his Klingondom. Zimmerman also provides an enjoyable interpretation of a cowardly and calculating Klingon, something rarely seen in the extensive Star trek canon.
Everything about this production is well-crafted, but particularly the juxtaposition of Kidder-Mostrom’s calm Vulcan with the rambunctious Klingons. So often in foreign language productions featuring supertitles, the actors will resort to overacting to communicate ideas. But you can’t really overact as a Klingon – the culture’s natural gregariousness lends itself perfectly to this format. Plus, the Vulcan’s subtle English narration provides a welcome break from both the supertitles and the nonstop aggressive energy of the Klingons.
If you still need another push to see this show, realize that 2014 will represent the fifth and final engagement of A Klingon Christmas Carol in Chicago. You’ll certainly get more out of this production if you understand terms such as Red Shirt, Ferengi, and Rura Penthe, but you will still find a lot to like about it if you don’t know much about Star Trek cannon. So boldly go and see this show!
A Klingon Christmas Carol continues through December 21st at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 8pm and 10:30pm, Sundays 3:30pm. Tickets are $30-$34, and are available by phone (773-935-6875) or online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at CBTheatre.org. (Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Anne Petersen and Christopher Kidder-Mostrom
Christopher Kidder-Mostrom (Narrator), Philip Zimmermann (SQuja’), Clark Bender (QachIt), Matty Robinson (vreD), Breon Arzell (MarlI’, veSIwlq), Vivian Knouse, James Gasber, Timothy Sullivan, Colin Fewell, Dylan Jost, Kim Fukawa, Elizabeth MacDougald, Stephen Dale, Shane Rhoades, Christina Romano, Caity-Shea Violette (ensemble)
behind the scenes
Catie O’Donnell (director), Christopher Kidder-Mostrom, Chris Lipscombe, Laura Thurston, Bill Hedrick (translation), Joe Griffin (music, sound design), Shandee Vaughan (asst. director, stage manager), Jeremy Cowan (language coach), Zoe Mikel-Stites (lighting), Jeff Stolz (costume design), Ian Mostrom (set design), Anne Petersen, Christopher Kidder-Mostrom (photos)