A Klingon Christmas Carol takes a holiday classic into decidedly geeky territory. Not withstanding some shortcomings in terms of costuming, EDGE of Orion Productions and director John Gleason Teske have delivered an interesting and entertaining view of the holiday season’s good spirits.
Predating the Dickens version of the tale by several hundred years, as we are told by a Vulcan Narrator (Elise Soeder), the play follows SQuja (Scrooge, played by Tony Bunnel) through the events of the annual, Klingon winter solstice celebration, tlhIngan ram nI’ bom (Klingon Long Night’s Song). A cowardly money lender, the ghost of his old partner, marlI’ (Marley, played by Kent Joseph) and three Spirits of Kahless lead SQuja through an exploration of his life and the discovery of his courage, passion, and honor.
Returning for his second year at the titular character, SQuja, Tony Bunnel delivers a transformation the role deserves. The character seems small at the beginning of the play, shoulders hunched, gestures small. A money lender who cheated during his ascension ceremony, SQuja stands empty of honor and all too full of spite, apathy, and jealousy. Bunnel, under the direction of Gleason Teske, slowly grows the character as the Ghosts of Kahless guide him through his life. By the last moments, SQuja stands larger, full of Klingon passion, without the cowardice the character displays at the beginning of the production. He has not yet claimed the full honor due to him, but ritual fights with his nephew, vreD (Justin Blankenship) and his guests, and a commitment to train along with tImHom (Liam Walsh) leaves the audience with a sense that SQuja will make a warrior, yet.
Justin Blankenship’s portrayal of vreD (Scrooge’s nephew Fred in the Dickens’ version), delivered with exuberance and enthusiasm, provides a solid yardstick against which to measure SQuja’s progress. The effervescent vreD dominates the stage with his boisterous laughter and swagger, and never-ending confidence in his uncle.
The entire company of performers, each cast for “heart,” deliver solid performances, deftly negotiating around the Klingon language. Coach Dr. Jeremy Cowan spent extra time with the actors to ensure their understanding of this fictional language; pronunciation and syntax. It was not enough to merely recount the words phonetically. The cast honed their Klingon to speak with knowledge of words and often deliver meaning through gestures and reaction. For those who don’t speak conversational Klingon, the production also projects super-titles in English.
In this third year with EDGE of Orion, the costuming and makeup efforts disappoint. Compared to the Commedia Beauregard production from 2010 to 2014, outfits look amateurish, not quite the level of common con cosplay. I heard another member of the audience refer to the Klingon ridges worn by the actors as “Looking like a flesh toupee.”
It provides a stark contrast with the well designed, minimalist set. The sparsely appointed stage, and excellent if unobtrusive light design, draws the audience’s attention to the characters and the action.
Director John Gleason Teske stressed the cross-cultural appeal to the work when I had a chance to talk with him at the press preview. “Star Trek fans should come. Christmas Carol fans should come. People who want to see something different should come. Fans of staged combat should come. It’s an old story told in a new way.”
Language coach Dr. Cowan added, “It’s a show for the people that always get dragged to the nerdy stuff. Even they will have a good time.”
Having seen a preview of the show, I’m inclined to agree. By the end of the show, I was ready for some blood wine! (But I will pass on the gagh!)
A Klingon Christmas Carol runs November 29th-December 16th at the Edge Theater. Purchase tickets at edgeoforion.com/purchase-tickets/ for $22.
On December 15, Star Trek fan band Five Year Mission will visit The EDGEfor a pre-show concert. Learn more about the group at http://fiveyearmission.net/.
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Photography and Photography with Heart.