a cute carol

NOW Magazine - - STAGE - deB­Bie Fein-gold­Bach

a christ­mas carol com­edY by Katie Lea­men (No Por­poise Pro­duc­tions). At Wy­ch­wood The­atre (76 Wy­ch­wood). Runs to Dec 23. $20-$30. no­por­poise­pro­duc­tions.com. See Con­tin­u­ing, page 33. Rat­ing: nnn

A Christ­mas Carol Com­edy stays true to Dick­ens’s orig­i­nal story while also in­cor­po­rat­ing an amus­ing air of mis­chief and a heap­ing serv­ing of puns.

At the out­set, per­form­ers M. John Kennedy and Sean Sul­li­van bound on­stage to in­form the au­di­ence of the divi­sion of roles: Kennedy por­trays Scrooge and Sul­li­van plays every­body else. Then they launch into a ro­bust retelling of the fa­mous tale.

Sul­li­van ac­com­plishes the feat of play­ing all the other char­ac­ters by al­ter­ing his vo­cal in­to­na­tions and em­ploy­ing wigs, hats and scarves. Even while per­form­ing at break­neck speed, his pre­cise tim­ing keeps the story on track. Kennedy em­bod­ies Scrooge’s crank­i­ness with­out be­com­ing too scary or mean for a fam­i­lyfriendly show, and he man­i­fests a heart­warm­ing tran­si­tion to kind­ness by the play’s end. (Note: if that’s a spoiler for you, you’re se­ri­ously be­hind in your hol­i­day clas­sics.)

Clever props help de­fine char­ac­ters. For ex­am­ple, ev­ery mem­ber of the Cratchit fam­ily dons dif­fer­ently shaped eye­glasses, with Tiny Tim decked out in the largest ones of all, Harry Pot­ter-style specs (plus a for­lorn, tiny crutch).

Un­der Lynne Grif­fin’s di­rec­tion, the ac­tors don’t just break down the fourth wall; they stam­pede through it, some­times lit­er­ally into the au­di­ence. The stag­ing in­cludes pre­dictable sight gags and slap­stick, yet also in­no­va­tive mo­ments, such as when Ja­cob Mar­ley’s ghost shows up at Scrooge’s door, or the way Scrooge peers through a win­dow­pane into Cratchit’s house. As­so­ciate pro­ducer Se­bas­tian Bi­a­succi also lends an on­stage hand (in a white glove) for laughs.

Katie Lea­men’s script is crammed with pop cul­ture ref­er­ences and cheesy clichés. Cratchit’s de­sire for his own catch­phrase to com­pete with Scrooge’s “Bah! Hum­bug!” def­i­nitely in­duces gig­gles.

The source ma­te­rial, first pub­lished in 1843, ob­vi­ously holds up to any in­car­na­tion. Never un­der­es­ti­mate the time­less­ness of a clas­sic Christ­mas story… or the ad­di­tion of a rub­ber chicken.

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