By Elizabeth McQuern
Commedia Beauregard’s production of A Klingon Christmas Carol is a clever and delightful adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” filtered through the not-so-subtle nuances of Star Trek’s Klingon culture. It’s also filtered through Klingon language, with helpful supertitles as well as occasional interjections from the play’s Vulcan narrator. This academic from the Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology (rendered pitch-perfect by Sara Wolfson) begins the show by explaining that what we are about to see is a study of two cultures, Human and Klingon, through a combination of two classic pieces of literature.
All the familiar characters are in place, but with Klingon-ized characteristics and names. Scrooge, played by the very able Kevin Alves, becomes SQuja’. Marley is known as marlI and Tiny Tim is a pitifully underdeveloped Klingon boy called TImHOm, who hobbles around on not a crutch but rather on a miniature bat’leth; the classic Klingon “Sword of Honor.”
The story sticks quite strictly to the structure of the Dickens tale, but substitutes the Klingon values of honor and a passion for battle in exchange for the human values of generosity and compassion. Thus, SQuja’ is an obsessive moneylender who has since childhood been afraid to fight and is unconcerned with the primary Klingon value of honor.
SQuja’ is visited by three successive spirits that “transport” from dimension to dimension accompanied by glimmering lights and the unmistakable sound effect from the original series. The spirits are variations of the Klingon messianic figure qeylIS, who united the Klingon people and became the first Klingon emperor. SQuja’ has been warned that the three spirits are visiting him for one purpose: “to make him a warrior by dawn.” Hilariously, the first spirit, that of the Ghost of qeylIS Past, resembles the Klingons of the original series; lacking the prominent brow ridges of successive generations of Klingons and also wearing the period-appropriate costume. Special mention should be made of Phil Zimmerman, playing The Ghost of qeylIS Present, who brings the bearing and presence of a legendary figure to full and booming life.
As the story progresses, we are introduced to the extended family of marlI (Marley) including the Tiny Tim figure TImHOm. His parents want only for him to complete the Age of Ascension ritual, which is expected to kill the little boy in a death that nevertheless would make him a warrior and therefore allow him to enter Sto-vo-kor; the Klingon heaven.
Needless to say, this show is probably best appreciated by fans of Star Trek (whether properly called “Trekkies” or “Trekkers” is a subject for another time), who will chuckle and nod knowingly at the countless small touches that hearken back to the Treks ranging from The Original Series all the way to the most recent movies. Weak Klingons are called “red shirts” (the familiar “unnamed” crewman very likely to die on away missions), angry Klingons snarl and call each other “son of a Tribble,” and the line “I hope for your sake you are initiating a mating ritual,” initially uttered in the movie Star Trek: Generations, is hurled from the mouth of an angry female toward a male (who was, indeed, attempting courtship with a misplaced punch in the mouth).
However, non-Trekkies who may be asked to accompany Trek-freak friends and lovers will also enjoy A Klingon Christmas Carol. The spirit of fun, which is obviously present in the talented ensemble, contagiously trickles out into the audience and culminates with a post-show opportunity to rub shoulders and take photos with the fierce and ridgey-headed cast.
This is not the Dickens of the Goodman Theatre or your high school literature class, nor is it the Star Trek of never-ending reruns or fanatical conventions; rather it is an ingenious hybrid that brilliantly completes the mission statement of Commedia Beauregard.
“Our mission is to translate the universal human experience to the stage: to expand our horizons and share knowledge of all cultures, translating between languages and between arts to create theater that is beautiful in expression.”
Through their unique production of A Klingon Christmas Carol, they complete their mission by boldly going where no Christmas Carol has gone before and in doing so they take their audience on a singular holiday adventure that is quite literally out of this world.
(“A Klingon Christmas Carol” runs through December 31 at The Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-404-7336)
Top image by Elizabeth McQuern.