Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blessed Unrest's A Christmas Carol

The cast of Blessed Unrest's A Christmas Carol. Photo by Alan Roche 
‘Tis the season when perennial favorites, such as A Christmas Carol, come to visit. Just as Scrooge’s three spirits seek to alter the miser’s view of Christmas, Blessed Unrest hopes to leave their own imprint on the Charles Dickens’ classic—one that matches the author’s original intent: to examine an uneven socioeconomic system, which only benefits the wealthy. The nonprofit theatre company only partly succeeds with this light-hearted, but often heavy-handed production.

The show begins with a lovely enchantment—the six actors who will play 37 characters in the 95 minute running time gambol in bare feet as a disco light mimics snowfall and a Dickensian village comes to life: Tiny Tim (Jessi Blue Gormezano) limps across, toes twisted uncomfortably; a couple steals a kiss on tiptoe; and Ebenezer Scrooge (Damen Scranton) stomps sourly into his workplace. All infuriated twitch and baleful glare when discussing topics such as Christmas and charity, this Scrooge softens whenever his dead sister is mentioned. Scranton infuses this underlying sorrow into his version, making the  miser more sympathetic and relatable than other portrayals. Unfortunately, the remainder of the cast is uneven, with the men faring better than the women, who often use off-putting and inconsistent accents.

The creative team’s artistic choices make the production both whimsical and puzzling (Director-Choreographer: Jessica Burr and Production Stage Manager: Jamie Van Dyke).  Making Scrooge climb five flights of stairs—complete with a Bill Irwin-like ascension—allows for delightful laughter at the miser’s expense. The actors also engage in a fascinating choreography of costume changes with lace collars and vests appearing from underneath stacked doors and one woman nonchalantly tying another’s sash in a corner. However, the breakout Lady GaGa dancing session is more anachronistic than humorous, and putting Jacob Marley (Joshua Wynter) on stilts works better as an idea—it intensifies the horror of walking the earth without rest—but the actor sweats so from the exertion you want to dab him off with a towel.  

A Christmas Carol runs through December 22 at The Interart Theatre (500 W. 52nd Street in New York City). Tickets are $18. For more information:

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