Brad Cole Exhibition
The Western Stage mounts a wonderful, and original, Christmas Carol.
Thursday, December 5, 2002
As the Christmas season rushes down upon us, wings outstretched like the angel of the Annunciation, the inevitable question follows: "Which version of A Christmas Carol am I going to see this year?" Or maybe we should ask, "How many versions of A Christmas Carol can one actually stand to see in a single lifetime?"
If we are talking about the version playing at The Western Stage, the answer should be: "At least one more." From the moment we begin talking about this new adaptation of Dickens'' famous novella, it is apparent that it is different. First of all, the play is titled A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley. Scrooge and Marley? How come the ghost gets top billing along with the world''s most famous misanthrope? Apparently the message is, it is never too late to make the world a better place for those around you.
Further perusal of the program reveals yet another interesting twist. This adaptation was written by Israel Horovitz. Horovitz has long been acclaimed as one of America''s best playwrights, but that has been for his serio-comic (or sometimes less than comic) insights into contemporary society in such works as North Shore Fish, Acrobats, Line, or The Indian Wants the Bronx. But the pairing of twentieth-century hip playwright with nineteenth-century hopeful novelist turns out to be ideal.
The story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserable miser who is transformed by story''s end into a philanthropist who carries the spirit of Christmas in his heart year-round, is widely known, and much performed. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, in life as miserly and uncompassionate as Scrooge. As part of his penance for not recognizing that "mankind was his business," Marley must help Scrooge correct the error of his ways. To this end, he sends his old friend three spirits, The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, to breathe life into Scrooge''s moribund sense of humanity.
Jeffrey T. Heyer makes the best Scrooge since Alistair Sim. He drips with disdain for everyone from the somewhat Uriah Heep-like charity fund raisers to his own nephew. His reaction to the characters with whom he comes in contact, living and dead alike, is so precise and specific that one is allowed to see many facets of Scrooge. Heyer is equally marvelous as the transformed Ebenezer. He laughs rustily, like a man earnestly remembering the sound from the distant reaches of his past. His bonhomie is clearly out of tune, yet we are convinced that he will master it with ardent practice.
As the ethereal ghost of Jacob Marley, David Parker is a sheer delight. He is a little scary, quite compelling, and though he passes judgement on his partner, he cannot hide the twinkle in his eye as he watches his magic work its desired effect. Parker is often called upon to take the stage alone and explain the situation to the audience. Never does he slip into reportage; instead we get the feeling that he desperately cares about the outcome (as should we), all the while seeing the humor in even the most miserable moments of life.
Jaimie Roedel is a wonderfully likeable Bob Cratchit. His warmth and fatherly affection leaves the audience wishing they, too, could move in with the Cratchit family, in spite of the Cornish game hen-sized goose they will all be sharing on Christmas Day.
Jon Patrick Selover directs his massive ensemble effectively, helping to bring the story to life. Costumes by Rhonda Kirkpatrick-Griffith and Kat Ogletree make bold and meaningful thematic statements. The set by Theodore Michael Dolas and beautiful lighting design by Derek Duarte are as entertainingly theatrical as the adaptation itself. Susan Cable''s choreography is a fun mixture of Irish dance, English country dancing and good old-fashioned show dance. The music direction by Don Dally and Rebecca Hathaway Nelson provides for both onstage music, instrumental and vocal, and eerie (though sometimes distracting) offstage effects.
Western Stage''s A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley is a wonderful early holiday present. Sadly, it plays only through December 14. For tickets and information call the box office at 755-6816.