Trinity delivers a timeless yet updated version of the Dickens’ classic
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol often gets updated, contemporized and twisted in myriad of ways. It’s been set in modern times, and it’s also been turned into a musical, a cartoon and a movie starring Muppets. Still, sometimes a production comes along that takes it back to its roots, to its original form. And it’s like spending an evening with an old friend, one who tells us the story exactly as Dickens intended it. That’s exactly what you’ll get this season at Trinity Repertory Company’s production of A Christmas Carol.
This adaptation, by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming, keeps everything firmly in the Dickensian universe. We are dropped squarely into London in 1843 and the story stays true to the age in most every way. We’re also treated to a version that has wonderful musical moments and just enough new or slightly different scenes to keep us on our toes.
Every production relies heavily on its Scrooge and in this regard, Trinity is in excellent hands. Company member Timothy Crowe is brilliant as the old miser, with a kind of gleeful menace and sinister giddiness about his disdain for all things Christmas. When he comes to the inevitable transformation, it’s difficult for any audience member to not smile and laugh right along with him. His joy is completely infectious.
Reliably present are most of the Trinity company members, all doing their usual fine work. It’s always interesting to see different actors inhabit the roles each year. This time around, Mauro Hantman creates a believably meek and timid Bob Cratchit but also gets to steal a moment or two in other parts. All play multiple roles and it’s also fun to see how they differ in each. Rachael Warren, for example, doesn’t offer much as Mrs. Cratchit but she’s fantastic as Mrs. Partlet, a character who doesn’t always get such a great performance. Every ensemble member gets at least one moment like that, a chance to shine, no matter how big or small the role.
When so much works so well, things that don’t work can really stand out. In this case, it’s the scene involving Marley’s ghost, played here by Stephen Thorne. Thorne is a great actor and this version of Marley doesn’t do him justice. It would have been more interesting to see Thorne play dark and serious, something we haven’t seen him do very much. His arrival and departure (both involving Scrooge’s bed) are hysterical, though we’re left to wonder whether that’s intentional.
Other than that ghostly hiccup, the proceedings are handled skillfully all around. The three ghosts are exactly what you expect them to be, with Mia Ellis especially fun as Christmas Past. One nice twist is that Christmas Present is actually played by three actors, aging before our eyes from a teen idol to a bearded old man. It’s an unusual but very nice touch.
As a framing device, the story is narrated by a character called The Reader, who tells the tale to a group of children. The ensemble then brings his tale to life for the enjoyment of all. Director Tyler Dobrowsky, along with everyone involved, allows the story to remain true to itself. So if you’re tired of all the altered and updated versions, or just want to remember how A Chrismas Carol was intended to be, then Trinity’s production is the one to see.