Give the inspections time to work

The Loading Dock Theatre’s new play spoofs Scrooge and company

Greg Corradini

Scrooge, that tight-fisted, cheerless miser, is back this holiday season.

Well, sort of.

A man who would drive a stake of holly through Santa’s heart, Scrooge was the invention of author Charles Dickens in his classic story, “A Christmas Carol.” Although he is not the lead character in Starting Gate Productions’ “Inspecting Carol,” you could say his presence is still being evoked.

The penny pincher in this play is the National Endowment for the Arts, an organization that is about to cut all of its funding to the fictitious Soapbox Playhouse.

With cardboard turkeys and decade-old costumes, the Soapbox actors are having a dickens of a time rekindling the holiday merriment required to pull off their annual production of

“A Christmas Carol.” Last year’s Scrooge, tinkering with convention, recited all of his lines in Spanish to protest U.S. military involvement in Central America.

As annoying as plays about plays generally are, “Inspecting Carol” happens to work because of the wit it uses to critique arts organization culture.

Like many real-life theater companies, when the Soapbox Playhouse started, its artistic director envisioned a space where politics, social revolution and theater fused into a common law.

Reduced to financial ruin and dependence on the national endowment, now the artistic director must follow the endowment’s guidelines and bet on which plays will make the most money.

One guideline requires the play company to hire minorities in an effort to diversify its white, unionized staff. But even after the company adds Wallace Parsons (Anne Boyd), a strong-willed black woman, to its cast, it completely misses the meaning behind its attempt to diversify.

In this behemoth of a mix-up, the company attempts to make Parsons play the white ghost of Christmas past, a role she very vocally rejects, to the bewilderment of her white colleagues.

With many more theatrical high jinks to follow, the Soapbox’s annual play devolves into a circus.

In the end, “Inspecting Carol” displaces its scrooginess with holiday merriment and a warm, fuzzy feeling in which nothing in the world is so tickling as a theater company on the verge of bankruptcy.