It’s Christmas time again. And again. For the average American expectations for homegrown holiday entertainment have come to include screenings of Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Rudolph et al. But from across the pond, and for many more Christmases past, Yanks have repeatedly relished traversing that ossified odyssey of quintessential corporate tightwad Ebenezer Scrooge as he metamorphoses from miserly conservative to bleeding-heart liberal, all thanks to the guidance of three Yuletide apparitions. Just as Scrooge hobbles down memory lane, so too do innumerable families throughout the Western Hemisphere, but with distinctly more gusto. For Nosedive Productions this routine has itself not only become a theme worth exploring but also a lens through which to adapt the classic tale.
Told from the point of view of the dead and eternalized, James Comtois’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol hews closely to the original plot and dramatis personae but plays giddily with convention to reinvent the storytelling. The mildly jaded business associate Marley (Christopher Yustin) and Christmas ghosts (Marsha Martinez, Scot Lee Williams, and Larry Lees) are outside of time, forever stuck in a Twilight Zone loop of reinventing every Scrooge that comes along, only to have to do it all over again same time, next year. While they make anachronistic comments and observations, such as pondering the film Groundhog Day and the TV show Lost, on cue, like human marionettes, they donned exotic masks, traveled back to 19th-century laissez-faire Britain, and did their Dickensian duty. The thematically related motif of puppetry was even turned on its head as players powerlessly reenacted their chosen parts and carolers soundlessly mouthed ditties, while a real puppet commandeered the critical role of Tiny Tim.
Attempting such an adaptation often runs the risk of creating self-indulgent schlock. This production, however, celebrated the story and the multitudinous audiences who have enjoyed it for well over a century. While anchored firmly in the familiar plot and time period with the aid of a dazzling array of costumes and makeup designs (Stephanie Williams), Pete Boisvert’s direction made excellent use of extremely limited space and made the irreverent humor buoyant and joyfully amusing. Employing over-the-top, ultra-minimal, and gender-bending characterizations, the production ironically fought against the theme it wished to highlight. For those patrons in search of a time-honored irascible curmudgeon of a Scrooge, Patrick Shearer did his Lionel Barrymore best not to disappoint. Given the vitality and utility of this production, its goals might have gone beyond the silly and reached for the sublime. Utilizing the audience’s familiarity of the text and the obvious yen for comical theatrically, this production could have been massaged to yield more wit, nuance, and depth of perception.
(Also featuring Rebecca Comtois, Brian Silliman, Shay Gines, Marc Landers, and Jeremy Goren.)
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Copyright 2006 Adam Cooper