- Published on Tuesday, 11 December 2001 19:09
- Written by Charlotte K. Jarmy - Special to the Town Crier
I dare you to take a deep breath and say the title of Bus Barn's new production all in one effort.
The title, "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of 'A Christmas Carol,'" also tells you, beyond its length, that you are in for a zany theatrical experience.
Have a cup of mulled cider, and you will be in the proper mood for watching the plot about a small group of hopeful thespians staging the annual holiday show, "A Christmas Carol."
They must do so with a cast of just six since all others fail to show up. Against an attractive backdrop of painted holiday scenes, the courageous and often ridiculous actors trade male and female roles, knock down set furniture, goof up their lines and revert to their non-acting selves with disconcerting regularity.
It is immediately obvious that the story of Dickens' Scrooge and his mind-changing alteration from a miserable old skinflint to an affable and generous man is not the purpose the playwrights have in mind.
We must accept the play as a wild romp and suspend disbelief. Absurdities abound as the plot allows interaction between the characters and audience members in the front row.
The dignified Mrs. Reece (Colleen O'Kane Block) complete with snooty high-pitched voice, acts as greeter, narrator, Tiny Tim and a ghostly spirit.
She tells us at the end of Act I, "Don't worry, the second act is short." As Tiny Tim, she crouches low and stumbles along the stage saying, "I'm a poor crippled boy who's temporarily forgotten his crutch."
Her basic prop is a shiny red purse which always clues us to her identity, even when it swings out from her black shroud as one of the spirits that takes Scrooge on his journey.
Block stands out in all her roles and helps us to laugh heartily while wondering what on earth is happening.
Another outstanding performance is by Melody Cole who as Thelma is the strong leader of the manic acting group. She plays Scrooge and, though she fumbles and bumbles through the various stage props, does give the play within a play a fragile continuity.
Some of Cole's funniest moments come when she reacts with irritation to the mistakes of others and reverts to being Thelma venting her annoyance.
It's fun to be taken backstage along with the struggling cast as they shift roles, double up, or as their stage manager (Michael Afendakis) does, act with inappropriate silliness.
Act II continues the journey of Scrooge but uses a party situation to involve the cast and audience in charades. We simply shake our heads and accept the singing and dancing of the entire ensemble.
Director Kathy Gutto persuades us that we are participating in wild and crazy events.
The other cast members, Angela Bunting, Lynda Marcum and Buffy Afendakis, do a good job as the blundering members of a goofy amateur drama group.
The play runs through Dec. 30 at the Bus Barn Theatre, 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos.
For reservations and more information, call 941-0551.