STAGE REVIEW Victorian Players' silly play has long title and is long on laughs

The Christmas classic doesn't work out quite the way it should -- and that's the point.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Charles Dickens' immortal "A Christmas Carol" became a play within the play Thursday evening at the Victorian Players' opening performance of -- get ready for this title -- "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of 'A Christmas Carol'."
This play is just downright silly, and perfectly so. It is a riotously funny spoof about a small town group of thespians who are mounting their own lavish version of the adventures and misadventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, et al.
The adventures and misadventures, however, belong to the cast as they valiantly try to overcome lateness of most of their cast (they were caught in "a traffic jam in Lowellville") along with a plethora of miscues and minor arguments, all during their attempted performance of the Christmas classic.
Cast: Dawn Hoon starred as Mrs. Reece, the pleasant, unruffled director of the mess, who interrupts the action frequently to explain to the audience about some of the problems they've had. The scene in which half of the script was missing from their copies was especially funny. Hoon was quite at home in her role as director, Tiny Tim, Fred's wife, narrator and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, with hilarious results.
Tom Jones was equally funny as Gordon, the stage manager who also manages to mess things up and play a few parts himself, doing an exceptional job as one of the Cratchit family.
Joan Hamilton as Thelma, the group's diva and Scrooge, was superb as she weathered the ineptitude of her fellow cast mates, and Lisa Bogen gave an excellent performance as the recently injured Mercedes, who was called upon to play several roles herself, all while suffering added injuries.
In fine form as Felicity, the show's Fred, among others was Marilyn Higgins, whose character also interrupted the action at extremely odd and amusing times with the most mundane of actions.
Rounding out the cast as the pastor was Mac Michael, in a very funny role that called upon him also to interrupt the action at strange times with comments unrelated to the show.
Prepared: This cast showed a high level of preparation as they bantered back and forth between their "Carol" roles and their "Farndale" roles. Their timing was right on cue, and the jokes did nothing to detract from the greatness of Dickens' classic, but added a nice dose of humor to the mix.
Set decor was well wrought, and props, which were a mixture of modern conveniences outlandish to the Victorian era, only added to the fun.
This play is essentially about nothing. It has no ax to grind, no deep philosophical statement to make. It's just a nice evening filled with fun and laughter given by the director, Jean McClure Kelty, and her fine cast.

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