Caroling, Caroling

I’m still happy to find myself back in a theatre – aren’t you? Still happy to find the doors are open and we are sitting together in the dark. As I write this the newish Omicron variant is raging and we’re still not sure as to just how bad this round – is this round 2? 3? Are we even keeping count anymore? – how bad will it be? We don’t know, but my sense of it the doors will stay open in the new year… knock wood.

In this holiday season – which felt like one, thank you – I ventured out to attend two different versions of the classic Christmas Carol story. Neither was a traditional, Dickensian telling. What I loved was that both these takes had their own very different points of view.

The first was Newnan Theatre Company‘s ‘The Farnsdale Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Production of A Christmas Carol’. Now, Newnan loves these Farnsdale productions and over the years they’ve run through the list: we seen Farndale ‘Murder Mystery‘, Farndale ‘Macbeth’ and my personal fav, the Farndale ‘We Found Love on the SS Farndale’. Each is replete with cross dressing, bad acting, dropped cues and physical schtick. And when I say bad acting, know that it’s supposed to be bad. That’s the whole gig.

But here’s the thing. For these type of parodies to really work, the actors who are out there missing cues, flubbing lines and rolling around on the stage have to actually, secretly, still be good. There’s still an art to being artless. You have to understand timing to get it wrong, on purpose. This is the second time the Farnsdale Christmas Carol has rung out at Newnan and I’m not sure that this second gig is an improvement.

Blessedly, Andi Laaker has returned from the wilds of Florida to once again inhabit the role she owns as the vain and glorious Thelma Greenwood. And Megs Free is horribly mis-used as a poor crippled and consistently mangled Audrey; boy, she tries really, really hard on what she’s given. Allison Yost has TONS of enthusiasm but badly needed better direction. And Matt Perdue as the sole male member of the ensemble – well, he’s hardly there.

The production values were nice. Best of all was a lovely painted set credited to Faith Farrell.

I’m not sure I can take another Farndale. I think it may be time to let the SS Farnsdale sail into the sunset. But having said that, there were children in the audience and they loved the show. LOVED IT. And if for nothing else, I thank Newnan for the best Christmas gift there is: the laughter of children.

The other Christmas Carol was up the road at Southside Theatre Guild, where their version was the perfectly named ‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol‘ and yes, the focus here is entirely from the lesser character’s POV. This is a very clever script, full of surprises in a story that you wouldn’t think could offer any; one of those ‘wish I’d thought of this angle’ scripts.

We meet Marley at the point of his death, and the story is still supernatural. Marley is given an opportunity to redeem his lost and burdened soul – well, we knew that, from the original – but how he goes about it is the story here. The author Tom Mula takes all the story points we know so well and gives them lovely twists and turns, and yes, we really aren’t quite sure how it’s going to turn out.

A large screen upstage was (mostly) used to good effect and the simple, multi-level set done in muted grays was well utilized. The ensemble who played all the other parts – Mike Boylan, Will Evans, Chere Slocumb – did fine jobs. Our Marley – Jonny May – was outstanding.

Thanks to everyone who made these holidays a little brighter.