ACT’s Christ­mas Carol warm, hon­estly mov­ing

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Obituaries - WERNER TRIESCHMANN

For the sec­ond year in a row, the Ar­genta Com­mu­nity The­ater is stag­ing Lit­tle Rock play­wright Judy Goss’ adap­ta­tion of Charles Dick­ens’ A Christ­mas Carol. De­spite wet, cold open­ing night weather, an ap­pre­cia­tive, packed house re­sponded warmly to the old Christ­mas ghost story.

Dick­ens’ tale has en­dured these many years in part be­cause the lessons in it — pri­mar­ily com­ing from the re­demp­tion of noted wet blan­ket Ebe­neezer Scrooge — re­tain as much power as they did when the novella was pub­lished in 1843. The pri­mary take­away from ACT’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion is that Christ­mas tra­di­tions come about through great care and at­ten­tion to de­tail.

Di­rec­tor Vince In­salaco doesn’t play cute with Dick­ens (opt­ing for tra­di­tional cos­tumes and a tra­di­tional Vic­to­rian set­ting) and Goss’ adap­ta­tion is a faith­ful one. The large cast is filled with lo­cal ac­tors — quite a few of whom are re­lated to each other — and prac­ti­cally all break out into song through­out the show. ACT isn’t any­body’s idea of a pala­tial the­ater, yet the de­tailed set (de­signed by Sara Cooke) and painstak­ing pro­duc­tion (that in­cludes lots of fog and, yes, snow) feels tra­di­tional in the sense of some­thing that is solid and sturdy.

It is easy to for­get that A Christ­mas Carol is sup­posed to frighten — Scrooge has his you-know-what kicked around by some ghosts, af­ter all. This pro­duc­tion doesn’t skimp on the frights or the spe­cial ef­fects.

In this com­fort­ing, con­fi­dent at­mos­phere, the ac­tors are in­ci­sive and com­pelling even as the show some­times could use a lit­tle prod­ding to move along. Ben Barham’s Scrooge is what you want out of this cen­tral char­ac­ter — a gen­er­ous mix­ture of the salty giv­ing way to the sweet. Barham doesn’t over­play the hum­bug, and so his turn­around at the end feels all the more hon­est and true.

It is no small thing when A Christ­mas Carol, which lost its power to sur­prise a long time ago, can still move an au­di­ence. This one does just that.

A Christ­mas Carol con­tin­ues through Dec. 15 at the Ar­genta Com­mu­nity The­ater in North Lit­tle Rock. For tick­ets, call the box of­fice at (501) 3531571 or see the web­site, ar­gen­ta­com­mu­ni­tythe­ater.org.

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