A Christmas Carol
I’ve been listening to Christmas music since Halloween, and I’m wearing a pair of Grinch socks. I am officially a Christmas freak. Watching Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is something I do with regularity this time of year because it’s like wrapping myself in a warm blanket.
But I like the traditional telling—I was so afraid Brüka Theatre would mess it up. Well, they didn’t. In fact, this version, adapted by Michael Grimm and directed by Scott Beers, completely celebrates all the original goodness of A Christmas Carol, while allowing us to see it in a new way.
The beauty of the show is in its purity. Grimm’s adaptation involves only three actors: himself as Man, Mary Bennett as Woman, and Scott Dundas as Scrooge. Grimm and Bennett wear several hats as they work together to narrate and act out the various characters. They take turns reading Dickens’ words as the expressive face of Scrooge does the rest. When Woman narrates, Man becomes a character, and vice versa. In this way, we rely on the skill and versatility of the actors, which is so strong in both Grimm and Bennett that we never feel we’re missing a thing.
The sparse set consists only of two chairs, a black box, a coat rack covered in costumes, a lantern and a narrator’s podium on stage right and stage left, one each for Grimm and Bennett. There are no props, aside from clothing. Look for Grimm’s hilarious use of a velvet ribbon to instantly change from male to female. The show is remarkably inventive, imaginative and interesting. I anxiously waited to discover how Beers would handle “group” moments, such as Fezziwig’s party or Christmas dinner at the Cratchit house. These moments and others are handled beautifully, and Grimm and Bennett very ably fill the stage.
Meanwhile, Dundas’ Scrooge is delightfully perplexed, frightened and irritated. While he is obviously young, his face easily captures the pinched face of an old miser. In the end, when Scrooge awakens to find that he has a glorious Christmas Day before him, it is a joyful, giddy moment reminiscent of Alastair Sim’s classic portrayal. I found myself beaming and warm with joy, a sentimental lump forming in my throat.
Grimm was born to play Bob Cratchit—tall, thin, in wire spectacles and a muffler, he is the loveable Cratchit we know and admire. But he is also rather frightening as Jacob Marley’s ghost, with a booming voice and the appropriate amount of moaning and clanking of chains.
Bennett is a pleasure to watch. Talented and expressive, she seems able to become a new character at a moment’s notice. Her portrayal of English street urchins is a sight to behold.
Do not let the holidays go by without seeing Brüka’s A Christmas Carol. Its richness comes not from a stage filled with color and music, but simply from a very special story. Enjoy a hot chocolate on a Brüka couch, and wrap yourself in this warm Christmas blanket.