Photo by Scott Pakudaitis, courtesy Commedia Beauregard
Commedia Beauregard's Dickensesque holiday show A Klingon Christmas Carol is a must-see for die-hard Star Trekkers, especially fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But if you don't know what a Klingon is, this is probably not going to be the show for you.
Klingon Carol is an adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol set in the Klingon Empire and presented in the "authentic" Klingon language. Its presentation of a play in another language (albeit a language for a non-existent people) is in keeping with Commedia Beauregard's mission to expand its audiences' horizons and create a greater multi-cultural awareness by performing plays in translation.
In Klingon Carol, the Scrooge character is known as Squja'. Like Scrooge, Squija' is a money-grubbing penny pincher who acts more like a Ferengi (a Star Trek race whose members are driven by the desire to make profit) than like the warrior Klingons who hold honor more important than life itself. It becomes clear that Squija' is a coward who justifies his actions by saying that someone has to stay at the home front to keep the Empire running while the warriors are at battle. Instead of Christmas, it is the Feast of the Long Night (where Klingons subject themselves to combat and pain to prove their honor) that Squija' does not honor.
a klingon christmas carol, presented through december 13 at landmark center. for tickets ($20) and information, see cbtheatre.org.
The play follows the traditional scenes from A Christmas Carol, producing Klingon ghosts from the past, present, and future to show Squija' the need to follow the Klingon ways of battle and honor. The Tiny Tim character is known as TImhom and is a sickly, disabled boy who faces the painful blood rites all Klingon boys must face. His parents fret that he doesn't have a chance of surviving and they can only hope he dies with honor. Tlmhom is portrayed by a puppet and is deftly handled by Andrew Northrop. The puppet fighting scenes are among the most humorous in the show.
Highlights include Dawn Krosnowski who, as the Vulcan narrator, can't completely hide her disdain of the more "casual" humanoid races. Brian Watson-Jones gives an energetic performance as the rather hyperactive nephew. The best line in the play is when the nephew is called "the son of a Tribble." The play is loaded with sight gags and inside jokes, but unless you know a great deal of the Star Trek folklore, much of the humor will be lost. Being a die-hard Trekker (but obviously not as hard-core as some of the others present in the audience), it is hard for me to imagine how this show would be perceived by someone unfamiliar with Star Trek.
I found myself at times adrift when it came to understanding the more obscure references. For example, in the opening scene Squija' refers to being as "dead as a red shirt." It was not until intermission, when overhearing a member of Star Fleet (there were several uniformed representatives in the audience) that I learned that "red shirt" referred to the Star Fleet security officers who always wore red uniforms and who were often killed within the first few minutes of an episode in the original Star Trek series (Mad Magazine labeled these characters "the expendables"). After the show, my companions and I pooled together our collective Star Trek knowledge to decipher many of the play's other more obscure references.
Although the Vulcan narrator speaks English, the rest of the action is in Klingon with a projection screen providing English translation. One of the problems with the projection was that it was to the side of the stage rather than in the center. I often missed out on sight gags that were occurring while I was busy reading the translation. I would recommend that the narrator be used to verbally translate to avoid the distraction caused by the need to read the many translations. Since the show's running time is only a little over an hour, there would be ample time to provide such verbal translation. Another improvement would be to try a technique akin to the VH1 pop-up video approach, where the action pauses for explanations of the various obscure references to Star Trek culture.
The show has a very minimal set, but it was very clever how the theater's lights were used to imitate the effects of a transporter. The Klingon prosthetic designer, Bill Hedrick, does a great job recreating the bumpy, prominent foreheads of the Klingons and Erin Haynes's warrior costumes are very authentic looking.
For Trekkers, A Klingon Christmas Carol is a merry evening of sight gags and clever Star Trek trivia. For those unfamiliar with the various Star Trek series, I would only recommend going if you can bring a hardcore Trekker companion.
This production is featured in the Daily Planet's complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you'll know who's been naughty and who's been nice.
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