Time to Remember
I have to start with a disclaimer- at 49 years of age, I have seen countless productions and iterations of the Dickens tale "A Christmas Carol." Movies (as a lad, my father would insist we watch the 1951 Alastair Sim classic, claiming it was the only version that mattered.), Television (the countless sitcoms that had special "holiday" episodes), and stage productions have all put their stamp on this holiday classic, leaving me with little desire to revisit this oft told tale. I sound a bit Scrooge-like, don't I? To that I say, "Bah, Humbug!"
So it takes my faith in director Nathaneal Fisher's talent and vision to drag me out of my over saturated pre Christmas holiday haze to see a story that I know backwards and forwards. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed. Fisher has adapted the story and fashioned " A Dickens Christmas (A Ghostly Story)" into a brisk retelling of the timeworn tale with a cast of four who play 18 different characters. The story is in constant motion as the actors add or remove simple costume pieces in full view of the audience with little pause and the simple set is more evocative than literal, allowing the actors the freedom to set the stage with their narration , painting the pictures with their words and faces.
Scrooge is played with grim resolve by local actor Allan Walker (who takes a brief turn as the giddy Cratchit children.). Once again, I have to say (disclaimer) that I have always had a problem with the sudden turn in Scrooge's character at the end of the story. He is such a bitter and hateful old man that it isn't really until the ghost of Christmas future shows him his headstone that he suddenly grows a heart. So I find it a hard character to rally behind. That being said, I found Walker's performance to be perfectly despicable. His Scrooge seethes with bitterness and his transformation is beleivably satisfying if not altogether earned. I do wish I could have seen more of the "whys" of his sudden change throughout the show. That is more my problem with the source material, not Mr. Walker's performance.
Young Shelby Steverson plays an earnest Bob Cratchet with a naturalness that is beguiling in its' simplicity. His Cratchet is warm and relateable. His other characterizations were fine ( a turn at two different female characters left me wanting- a reliance on falsetto as a marker for femininity was more cartoonish than grounded. and his ghost of Christmas present had nothing to speak of to delineate it from other characters-save for the white robe he was wearing.)
Darla Briganti continues to mesmerize (this is her second time appearing in A Dickens Christmas as well as a bravura performance as Dorthea in last seasons' Eleemosynary) as she fills out several key roles in the play. With the addition of a hat here, a robe and a staff there, Briganti physically transforms into a multitude of characters (Fred, Fuzziwig, Marley, Mrs. Cratchet, Ghost of Christmas present, old Joe, Mrs. Caroline), imparting each one with a myriad of defining characteristics. As I noted previously in my review of Eleemosynary , Briganti has temendous presence and charisma onstage, making every moment and nuanced gesture a gem.
Jaunel Melissa Cox rounds out the cast playing Fan, Belle, and the Ghost of Christmas Future (an ominous presence cloaked in ...well, a cloak). Her greatest contribution to the proceedings is playing the violin onstage, adding a beautiful haunting quality to the production.
It is a lovely show tightly packed with great performances-my only real complaints are the sound and visibility. The theatre space is divided in half by a lengthy set of platforms with the audience seated on either side facing inward.. When ever the actors would turn from on side to face the other and speak directly to the audience, dialogue was missed by the mirroring audience. Admittedly, I am hearing impaired and have trouble hearing by and large, but I asked my friends who accompanied me (whose hearing is perfectly fine) and they said they missed the dialogue as well. Secondly, for the most part the open stage worked well for the space, but one particular bit was missed -Scrooges' door and a ghostly marker) were missed by half the audience, leaving me disappointed in not seeing the reveal. Possibly a little less angling of the door would have helped, but I quibble.
All in all, a delightful respite from the crass commercialism of the Christmas season, reminding us of the true meaning of the holiday. I highly recomend this take on the timeless classic performed by (mostly) local proffessionals in one of the areas two proffessional theatres.
Emerald Coast Theatre Company
(15) · Non-Profit Organization
560 Grand Boulevard, Upstairs · (850) 684-0323
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