Driftwood Players

"Inspecting Carol" Sept. - Oct. 2002

By Dan Sullivan and the Seattle Repertory Theatre Company

Directed by Tobi Ingram and Margaret Tingwall

From Left: Gary Morean: (Walter E. Parsons) Bob Skokan: (Larry Vauxhall) Steve Davis: (Bart Frances) David Bennett: (Luther Beatty) Julie Skokan: (M.J. McMann) Rick Bates: (Phil Hewlit) Geri Reynolds: (Dorothy Tree-Hapgood)

Debbie Finley (Lansing) (Betty Andrews) Rich Rice: (Kevin Emery) Nina Morean: (Zorah Bloch)


Nina Morean, Ron Rogers: (Wayne Wellacre) Steve Davis


Rich Rice, David Bennett


Ron Rogers, Ernie Ingram (In Door) (Sidney Carlton) Bob Skokan


Geri Reynolds, Ron Rogers, Ernie Ingram


Geri Reynolds, Rick Bates


Julie Skokan, Rick Bates

Rich Rice, Nina Morean

Debbie Finley (Lansing)

Pictures by
Jones Photo Co.

From The Daily World, Thursday, October 3, 2002

Driftwood comedy bears 'Inspecting'

By Jeff Burlingame
Daily World Entertainment Editor

    It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for the failing Midwestern theater company portrayed in Driftwood's current production of "Inspecting Carol," this holiday season is more of the bah-humbug variety.

    Written by Dan Sullivan and the Seattle Repertory Theatre Company, the play centers on a small troupe of actors at risk of losing a crucial grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. When the action begins, the troupe is rehearsing its biggest fund-raiser of the year -- Charles Dickens' holiday staple, "A Christmas Carol."

    The troupe is led by Zorah Bloch (Nina Morean, in a quality performance reminiscent of soap opera star Susan Lucci), a querulous Lithuanian.

    Her husband killed himself after receiving a bad review, and she is struggling to fight off her temper ("I'm Lithuanian" she repeatedly exclaims), a cast member with whom she had a recent fling (Phil Hewlit, played by Rick Bates) and personal demons.

    Throughout the play, Zorah does her best to right the group's steadily sinking ship.

    In one attempt to diversify and thereby improve her chances at impressing the NEA, Zorah hires an African-American actor to play the role of the three ghosts of Christmas past.

    That dramatic device, ironically, left Driftwood's co-directors Margaret Tingwall and Tobi Ingram in a sticky real-life situation.

    Weeks into rehearsals, the African-American actor the directors had cast into that role dropped out.

    "We were already committed to performing 'Inspecting Carol' ... and had little choice but to forge ahead," according to the director's notes in the play's program. "Given the diversity limitations of our area, we are using a white actor to perform this role."

    Hindsight being what it is -- and because a minority was desperately needed in the role to make the play work -- perhaps an Asian or Hispanic actor could have been found if no African-American was available.

    Regardless, veteran actor Gary Morean -- winner of Driftwood's "Best Male in a Supporting Role" award last year -- stepped into the role and did an outstanding job in what was a tough situation.

    And if laughs are any indication -- and Morean's excellent wit and frequent costume changes brought laughter with every appearance -- few, if any, in the crowd seemed to mind.

    Enter Wayne Wellacre (Ron Rogers), a minimally-talented actor searching for an audition. Because an NEA inspector is due to visit the theater -- and because Wayne's name can't be found in any acting registries -- Zorah and high-strung accountant Kevin Emery (Rich Rice) believe Wayne to be the inspector.

    The play's main plot centers around this classic case of mistaken identity and the chaotic hilarity it causes. In the play's best segment, Wayne is begrudgingly allowed a place on stage, where Rogers' commanding presence and dramatic gesturing propels the audience into a frenzy of laughter.

    Though Rogers' mastery of his role stood out, the entire ensemble shone brightly in front of a magnificent, yet simple, set that remained virtually unchanged throughout the performance.

    Designed by still-spry Driftwood stalwart Ernie Ingram (who played a very funny role of Sidney Carlton in the play itself), the set resembled an auditorium and stage of a regional Midwestern theatre. Rows of authentic antique seats were off to the viewer's left, with the stage -- draped with beautiful blue nighttime skyline complete with working lamppost -- off to the right.

    Ironically, one of the play's biggest flaws -- albeit a subtle one -- was borne of the stage props.

    When the play opened, several miscellaneous items were placed on the stage manager's (Julie Skokan) desk, including a small container of bottled water which Skokan drank from freely during the first act.

    Two days and four scenes later, the same partially empty water bottle was still on the desk, having presumably remained in the chill and dank auditorium the previous two nights.

    To Skokan's advantage, she didn't consume any after the first scene.

    When the real NEA inspector (Debbie Finley) comes in, slapstick reigns and the laughs build.

    A few swear words and adult themes sprinkled throughout make the show more PG-13 than G, though there's nothing most children haven't heard by the time they're out of elementary school.

    As it is, the entire cast is full of Driftwood's best -- Rick Bates, Bob Skokan and the delightful Geri Reynolds included -- making this behind-the-scenes view of an oft-sarcastic theater production well worth inspecting.

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