While in Pilson attending the first annual Chicago fringe festival earlier this year, someone handed me a show flier for something called A Klingon Christmas Carol. On the back, it had this description:
“Can three ghosts help him to become the true warrior he ought to be in time to save Tiny Tim from a horrible fate? Performed in the original Klingon with English supertitles, and narrative analysis from The Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology.”
As I’m far from a Trekkie, I shook my head and posted a photo of this flier on Facebook for laughs. To my surprise, an outpouring of interest came through, urging me to “see it — and take me, please!”
So, I did. And my friend Sarah joined me, who attended more out of mild amusement than anything.
The verdict? Enjoyable! While several bits of Klingon in-jokes and Star Trek humor buzzed right over my head, I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. It’s like Klingon Kabuki theatre. Foreign, yet fascinating.
Having seen The Goodman’s very traditional interpretation of the Charles Dickens morality tale the day before, the scenes and dialogue were still fresh in my mind. For the most part, the plot follows the basic premise, with some key changes to accommodate Klingon culture. Most notably, Scrooge (here, SQuja’ — pronounced Sk-OOO-JA!) is suffering from a lack of courage and honor, rather than compassion and humanity. He’d rather hide out in his hole, grumpily counting his gold, than fight in battle. The three warrior ghosts show how his pansiness has plagued his life. And poor Tiny Tim (tlmHom, played by a creepy/awesome puppet — see photo to the left) is doomed unless SQuja’ grows a pair.
My favorite adaptation of the material was the scene were the young SQuja’ meets his love, bel (Belle). In the Goodman production, they met through a lighthearted dance scene at a holiday party hosted by Mr. Fezziwig, where Scrooge leads Belle to believe he’s a jubilant fellow through his jubilant footwork. Here, they meet in a Klingon rumble, where SQuja’ leads bel to believe he’s a fearless warrior by accidentally punching her in the face.
I have to applaud Commedia Beauregard for their commitment to developing this work — the first play ever produced and performed entirely in Klingon. Each actor demonstrated unflagging commitment to the material (particularly Kevin Alves as the lead cranky Klingon), delivering the guttural language spit-tacularly. English supertitles (which at times seemed out of sync with the action below) help Klingon newbies follow along. And at just under two hours, the show doesn’t overstay its welcome (I was fearing something epic).
A few grumbles: The fight scenes border on lame (which is a rather significant problem when we’re told over and over that amazing warrior-ship is critical to Klingon culture), and the set (a drop-cloth and some chairs) is disappointingly stark. Costumes (Jeff Stolz) and makeup/prosthetics (Bill Hedrick) are fierce, however. Let’s hope this show, which has been a holiday cult hit in the Twin Cities for the past few years, finds its footing in Chicago.
“A Klingon Christmas Carol” plays through Dec. 19 at the Greenhouse Theater Center. More info here >