With the systematic gutting of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, the 2022 vacation season is surging with Scrooge-like spirit in a means which may make even residents of Dickensian England do a double take. Add to that the ever-widening hole between excessive poverty and excessive wealth — seen in Atlanta by rising rental costs stacked upon a $7.25/hour minimal wage — and, effectively, this story of generosity, group and the omnipresent alternative for transformation and second possibilities feels as related as ever.
Although it has been seen and finished in 1000’s of the way throughout greater than 175 years and with too many diversifications to rely (for the file, the Muppets did one of the best movie model), there are nonetheless — in some way — treasures to be mined from the 1843 novel’s depths. The Alliance Theatre’s manufacturing, on stage by December 24, has been a metropolis custom for greater than three a long time, but the artistic crew continues to seek out new and recent methods to deliver it to life.
It helps that final yr, the Alliance’s present was overhauled solely with a re-adaptation by David H. Bell, who plumbed the supply materials for brand new angles. What’s putting in watching the brand new interpretation is how most of the so-called peripheral plot traces — and the characters supporting the supporting characters — have their very own absolutely realized arcs and detailed backstories. It’s as if Bell knew that the viewers, with so many repeated viewings, would naturally gravitate towards watching what’s taking place on the sidelines and the way our protagonists affect these sideline tales.
Take, as an example, the wealthy aspect plot of a household peddling meals on the streets after they’ve fallen behind on their funds to Scrooge. Regardless of pleas for mercy, Scrooge has the daddy carted away to jail till his household can settle the debt — a merciless and unsettling act that happily will get rectified by the top of the play (although arguably the trauma continues to be there). All through the play, particulars emerge about how the household is coping. At one level, we be taught that the jails are full, so the daddy has been moved to a “jail barge” offshore to cope with the overflow. Gosh, if that isn’t a narrative with a connection to our present jail disaster, what’s?
Andrew Benator reprises his rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge and fills it with practiced cynicism as he utters a number of the immortal character’s most ruefully humorous (and reprehensible) traces. “I might see my breath within the chilly,” Bob Cratchit (the likable and understated Christopher Hampton) says of the chilliness of their unheated workplace. “Then breathe much less,” Scrooge retorts.
Because the scenes play on, we will watch his stance on life and humanity soften. Scrooge reverts to childlike marvel within the flashback scenes to his college days and conveys the immense sorrow of realizing in actual time the tragedy of his previous errors, which he can not change nor take again however solely helplessly relive. In too many Christmas Carol stagings, the transformation from callous, miserly misanthrope to beneficiant, open-hearted benefactor is instant and abrupt — which might be enjoyable and transferring in its means — however Benator’s efficiency is gradual, pulled off by micro expressions and rising pathos as he stands within the wings of his personal historical past. It helps make the ultimate transformation appear earned.
One other standout efficiency of this manufacturing is Thomas Neal Antwon Ghant because the compulsive and beneficiant Fezziwig. He devours every scene with an irrepressible zest for all times and employs a number of the play’s funniest moments, messing round with a newfangled digital camera to seize the Christmas merriment. It’s a distinct Fezziwig than we’re used to — not merely jolly but additionally dynamic and touching, particularly as issues take a disastrous flip for his household.
This makes one lengthy for the spinoff about simply Fezziwig and his spouse. What occurs after they exit the narrative, their meager possessions stuffed into two humble bins, having misplaced their fortune and their honorary son in a single fell swoop? Are you able to think about if this obtained the Higher Name Saul therapy?
The MVP of the present, although, might be the beautiful scenic design by Todd Rosenthal, which unfurls like one magic trick after one other: The large, ominous fire with blue-lit smoke that produces a raggedy visage of the forever-tormented spirit of Jacob Marley. The doorknob that turns into an imploring, spectral hand, glowing and sinister. The rotating set with the dexterity to plausibly showcase totally different occasions, areas and states of thoughts. And that big ominous puppet of the grim ghost of Christmas Future — wow.
A few qualms: First, proper earlier than the present begins, there’s a distinguished shout-out to all of the Alliance’s company sponsors, together with the notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ Chick-fil-A, which is frankly fairly jarring simply earlier than settling right into a story that concentrates on how ignorance is the supply of our distress.
Second, possibly it’s time to dispense with the try at British accents, given the acute variation in vocal inflection that was happening throughout the stage. The actors are all doing stellar work embodying their characters with out that distracting component.
And third, this can be a London that feels very sterile, very Disney-fied. Nonetheless in mourning for the late Angela Lansbury, I discovered myself eager for the scuzzy streets of Sweeney Todd. Because it stands, the streets all sparkle, the snow is beautiful and fluffy, and even the lamplighters scampering on the rooftops have a twinkle of their eyes. Like, actually, the Cratchit household is described as raggedy however full of affection, however they appear to be the Von Trapp household singers.
Sure, this all makes all the pieces charming and eccentric, which is what I do know individuals got here for, however given the thrilling new dimensions of the present adaptation, couldn’t we see extra of the mess contained inside the prose mirrored on the stage itself?
Nonetheless, this beloved present, as directed by Leora Morris, nonetheless appears like a real and heartfelt effort in spite of everything this time. And it packs sufficient vitality and pleasure from the robust ensemble forged to push even probably the most seasoned, humbuggiest of theater-goers like yours actually, who’ve seen this dang present (conservatively) a bajillion occasions, right into a state of heat, optimism and appreciation for these tales that can prevail by even the darkest of winters.
Alexis Hauk is a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation. She has written and edited for quite a few newspapers, alt-weeklies, commerce publications and nationwide magazines together with Time, The Atlantic, Psychological Floss, Uproxx and Washingtonian. An Atlanta native, Alexis has additionally lived in Boston, Washington D.C., New York Metropolis and Los Angeles. By day, she works in well being communications. By evening, she enjoys overlaying the humanities and being Batman.