Bad acting is hard work

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Charles Dickens' pen seems to be leaking. On Tuesday night, the tiny audience (me) was wiping her eyes.

You'll recognize the story you know so well -- Scrooge counting his coins; Tiny Tim with his crutch; the visiting ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future -- but it is somewhat disguised by a thick veneer of bungling. Bad acting, botched lines and the mistakes of a light and sound operator who is so engrossed by his girly magazine that he misses cue after cue.

Welcome to "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's production of 'A Christmas Carol,'" performed by the South Routt Community Drama Club.

The play, written by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr., tells the story of the Farndale ladies, who have no business on stage. Alas, they are there.

If it was possible to make Bob Cratchit any more pathetic than he was in the original story, the Farndale ladies made it happen.

His boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, docks his pay, refuses to give him Christmas off and yells when he uses too much coal to heat the stove. All the while, Cratchit stumbles along in a neck brace, arm sling and leg cast.

As it happens, Mercedes (played by Mary Anne Means), the Farndale lady who plays Cratchit, had an accident at the grocery store with 27 shopping carts. She stumbles through her part.

Make that parts. To produce "A Christmas Carol," the Farndale women each have to play multiple characters. Mercedes also plays the love of Scrooge's life, Belle (be it with a neck brace) and the part of a spry young boy.

"There is a scene when Mercedes is supposed to catch bags of money and a scene where she is supposed to play ring-around-the-rosie, but she can't really keep up," director Nina Rogers said. "Throughout the entire play, they are always running three paragraphs in front of Mercedes."

The South Routt Community Drama Club was looking for a fun, family-friendly holiday play when they stumbled upon the Farndale Townswomen's comedy.

Rogers knew of the authors from a play staged at the Seventh Street Playhouse years ago.

Before taking on "A Christmas Carol," the Farndale Ladies have performed in "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of 'Macbeth,'" "The Haunted Through Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle" and "They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen's Guild's Coffee Morning."

The Farndale Avenue plays were published in England and are very British in their humor.

It's also a humor that actor Bea Cole believes will be popular in Oak Creek.

"This is very South Routt humor," Cole said. "It's very down-home and slapsticky."

It takes a lot more talent to act as if you are acting poorly than it takes to actually be a bad actor. It takes extra effort to build a bad set that won't hurt anyone when it falls down but somehow, the South Routt ladies who play the Farndale ladies pull it off.

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