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A Klingon Christmas Carol
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2010-12-08

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Playwright: Christopher O. Kidder & Sasha Walloch (translated by Laura Thurston, Bill Hedrick, Chris Lipscombe & Christopher O. Kidder. Performed in Klingon with English subtitles.) At: Commedia Beauregard at The Greenhouse, 2259 N. Lincoln . Phone: 773-404-7336; $32. Runs through: Dec. 19

Charles Dickens' fable of redemption and atonement sparked by supernatural intervention extols universal values, rendering it a tale transcending tribal boundaries throughout the world—and now, with this long-overdue translation into an extraterrestrial tongue, can be added, "throughout the solar system."

First introduced in the seminal 1967 television series Star Trek, Klingons are a warrior race dwelling on the planet Kronos. Originally an enemy of the free worlds, they have since become our allies, espousing a cosmopolitan ethos leading them to travel widely. (Theatergoers wearing traditional Klingon costume were in attendance at the Greenhouse on opening night.) With the Commedia Beauregard's specialty being drama-in-translation, a foreign-language version of this literary classic seemed a logical step.

Spoken Klingon combines German consonants with Japanese vowels, the actors' formal, vaguely Kabuki delivery in this production emphasizing aural cognates to compensate for the dual focus engendered by projected English subtitles (like at the opera). Klingon society being atheist—and, as such, having no direct equivalent to "Christmas"—our setting is the Festival of the Long Night, celebrated with quasi-Olympic games and revels. SQuja' (pronounced "SKOO-ja") shuns athletic pastimes, however, amassing his riches from the misfortunes of his fallen countrymen. But on this special night, the spirits of three ancient heroes instill in their lost pilgrim—through the example of his security guard's sickly, but brave, young son—a newfound appreciation for noble deeds reflecting courage, pride and honor.

Adjusting to Klingon culture requires a certain suspension of disbelief—their courting customs, in particular, may appear crude to our earthly sensibilities. And those unfamiliar with the source material risk missing a few of the more arcane references (e.g., the garb worn by qeylIS, analogous to Ghost of Christmas Past). But as long ago as 1996, Klingon had surpassed Elvish and Esperanto as the fastest-growing constructed language—its own dictionaries, operas and parts of Shakespeare and the Bible, now available intergalactically—making it increasingly advisable, if your imagination encompasses a holiday party where guests merrily spar with bat'leths (a sort of deer-antler quarterstaff), to take advantage of this rare educational opportunity to expand your horizons in pursuit of greater understanding between alien nations.


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