For any who are not familiar with the play, “An Irish Carol” is a wise-cracking rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Playwright Matthew J. Keenan provides a fresh adaptation of the beloved holiday classic. Dicken’s first published the novella in 1843, which has since seen countless adaptations. The novella follows an old man who has turned his back on the world in favor of solidarity and monetary gain. The crotchety old man ruthlessly runs his business and gains no adoration from the people around him for it. However, through a series of perspective-altering confrontations, he learns to change his ways and embrace both love and holiday cheer. Now add in some heavy alcohol consumption, a few “fecks,” and some smart-mouthed friends and you have “An Irish Carol.”
…a holiday must-see if you are looking for a good laugh and a Christmas theme. Wildly raunchy, Keenan’s story will have you aching for more.
Keenan’s “Carol” follows an Irish bar owner, David (Kevin Adams), as he and his single employee, Bartek (Taylor Witt), work Christmas Eve during a blizzard. They are joined by a colorful cast of bar regulars—an opportunistic former employee, a charismatic fiancé, an old rival, and David’s brother. David’s former employee, Simon (Jared Graham), is wrought with ambition. His desire to succeed comes at the cost of his fiancé’s happiness and fractures their relationship. Their fight and subsequent breakup mirror David’s own past. In doing so, this couple represents the ghost of Christmas past from Dickens’ original tale. Three extra-terrestrial ghosts do not visit David. He is visited by his friends, family, neighbors, and rivals, all of whom help him see that he needs to make a change for the better.
“An Irish Carol” doesn’t follow an exaggerated, cruel, and out-of-touch old man from centuries past, but instead, a modern man who has been trapped by his inability to process his grief. This honest interpretation of Ebenezer Scrooge grounds the audience in the world of the play and reminds us that anyone can be a Scrooge with enough time and despair. As Bartek says in the play, “some people are better at coping than others.” This one-off was a stark reminder that the themes are universal no matter the era. At its heart, “An Irish Carol” is a story about forgiveness. Forgiveness of past wrongs both internal and external. Keenan’s script, much like Dickens’ story, seeks to increase empathy for the people around you. This is best exemplified through Keenan’s reimagination of Tiny Tim. In a modern twist, the young boy with tuberculosis is represented instead by a young girl, Maria, with autism. Unlike Tiny Tim, Maria doesn’t need to be rescued from her illness and David doesn’t try to. What she gets instead is acceptance. Not everyone can be saved by a rich old man, and not everyone needs to be. What Keenan offers is something, I believe, many people can benefit from, especially during the holidays: a friend, a smile, and a place to be welcomed.
The play could not be such a success without the leading actor. Kevin Adams is present throughout the show, easily huffing about and as a grumpy, grumbling old man. His shining moment was a moment on stage in which he had no lines. The story’s protagonist David receives a letter from a deceased lover. Without a word, Adams softly exemplified the stages of grief. The audience could scarcely breathe through the tension in the air as they grieved along with him. When Adams finally smiled and rose from his seat with determination in his eyes, the audience felt as though his victory was their own. This single moment, this single letter read silently on stage, stood out above the rest. There was no question in my mind as to why Adams was cast as the lead in Keegan Theatre’s production.
While perhaps not a show for the whole family, please keep in mind the use of mature language, this show is a holiday must-see if you are looking for a good laugh and a Christmas theme. Wildly raunchy, Keenan’s story will have you aching for more.
Running time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Mature audiences are encouraged due to the use of profanity.
“An Irish Carol” runs through December 31, 2022 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. Masks are optional but encouraged.