Christmas cheer, Village-style


A Very Nosedive Christmas


Written by Charles Dickens

Adapted by James Comtois

Directed by Pete Boisvert

Nosedive Productions (

The Horse Trade Red Room, 85 East 4th Street

Non-union production (closed)

Review by Adam Cooper


Kris Kringle, Old St. Nick, Santa Claus – they’re all back again in their myriad guises as it’s Christmas time in America again. Along with them come the shopping season, endless advertisements, Rockefeller Center’s tree, and Nosedive Productions’ wacky spin on Charles Dickens’s old Yuletide warhorse, A Christmas Carol. Being somewhat of a minor staple of the Off-Off-Broadway holiday scene, A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol, playing at the venerable East Village haunt at 85 East 4th Street, struggles to make merry against chatter noise from the bar below and in a black box space slightly larger than a padded cell. James Comtois’s revised rendition takes an irreverent deconstructionist crack at the insanely familiar sentimental morality tale about a rich old miser getting his spiritually educational comeuppance via apparitions from the netherworld (or maybe it’s just bad dreams or an oversized guilty conscience come to call).


Patrick Shearer led the jaded thespians as the anti-hero Ebenezer Scrooge, archetypically bitter capitalistic boss to meek and oppressed clerical drone Bob Cratchit (Ben VandenBoom), as he rejects all calls for Christian charity until Halloween-esque spooks come a-calling to win hearts and minds in time for him to rise phoenix-like into Santa-incarnate, dispensing gifts galore to the dedicated proletariat.


Key to this production were the topsy-turvy roles of those various spiritual beings, including dead business partner Marley (Scot Lee Williams) and the specters of Scrooge’s Christmases past, present, and future (Marsha Martinez, Brian Silliman, and Ben Trawick-Smith respectively). It was through their inventive playfulness in bonding symbolically with the audience on having to unendingly guide Scrooge from penny-pinching geezer to lovable old coot that the production took its most unique turns. Marley and the ghosts lamented their annual burden of enlightening Scrooge every Christmas season, yet, ironically, with the ghosts lacking spontaneity themselves, their quirkiness played like an odd, inaccessible in-joke.


Kudos do go to Nosedive for stalwartly refashioning its own grungy spin on an all-too-familiar ditty. One cannot veg out in front of this production as one might do so mindlessly watching Alistair Sim, George C. Scott, or even Mr. Magoo doing their thing for the umpteenth time. Still, there was a palpable lack of zip and clever creativity in the performances. The production was at its best when it played against routine and expectation; however, it seemed to have fallen prey to settling into its own silly sameness, zapping buoyancy out of the show. The few genuinely humorous moments were themselves somewhat akin to alluding apparitions of what previous incarnations of the production once were.


Top-heavy on Scrooge gruffness, the Cratchits were left with little of interest to play. Elements of the zany take on the story, such as gender-bending roleplaying, using monkey puppets as carolers (looking suspiciously like the company’s slightly sinister logo), and “actors” taking on the gig as the Christmas ghosts, came across as engaging inspirations lost in a sea of habituated carping and grousing. Techwise, the production especially shined with astounding and plentiful period costumes (Stephanie Williams). Fighting against the narrow black walls closing in, Lauren DiGiulio’s beyond barebones set design could have benefited from some Christmas magic.


(Also featuring Rebecca Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Jessi Gotta, Matt Johnston, and Marc Landers.)



Box Score:



Writing: 2

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 0

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 1



Copyright 2007 by Adam Cooper



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