No, this isn’t just A Christmas Carol with an accent; [Keegan Theatre’s An Irish Carol by Matthew J. Keenan] is a riff on the familiar Dickens structure, transported to the equally familiar stage world of an old Irish bar. The ghosts and visitations are traded for recriminations and memories; the supreme miser Scrooge for the grumpy old owner David; the near-penniless Cratchit for working-class Polish immigrant Bartek. This is the fairy tale-scope and primary colors of the classic tale brought down and in to a more subtle and sepia-toned mood. In other words – an ideal Carol for the end of this year of our quarantine 2020.
David’s (Kevin Adams) Christmas Eve is one composed of small encounters with humanity, challenges from long-lost friends, and little glimpses of what he has given up by hiding himself behind a harsh demeanor, culminating in a gorgeously silent moment of reckoning. The final expected turn to “god bless us, every one” is perhaps a little too quick and cheery coming after such an understated journey, but we’re all deserving of a bit of light at the end of the decade.
There’s something to be said for any of the numerous customary Christmas Carols out there; we can all use those theatrical comfort blankets from time to time. But for those who feel like they don’t have it in them, after this bear of a year, to play pretend with spirits and miracles, who just want a more quietly earned, mature, and earthy version of the tale – that still delivers on the uplift – this Irish Carol will go down like a glass of smooth whisky on a cold winter night.