On Stage

A Christmas Carol

Spirits of the season

See

What: A Christmas Carol

Where: Sylvia Center, 205 Prospect St.

More:

WHEN: 7:30pm Thurs.-Sat., Dec. 20-22

Cost: Tickets are $15-$20

Info: http://www.sylviacenterforthearts.org

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Spoiler alert: In iDiOM Theater’s recent revival of A Christmas Carol currently showing at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, the pivotal role of Tiny Tim is cunningly played by a small wooden chair.

But aside from Tim and a couple of his siblings—who briefly come to life even though they are portrayed by what appeared to be wadded-up napkins—most of the characters in Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale are channeled by adroit actors Anna Mostovetsky, Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao, and Bennett Williamson.

Although I was in the audience in 2005 when iDiOM first presented the tale of a mirthless skinflint named Ebeneezer Scrooge who finds seasonal salvation thanks to nocturnal visits by a trio of ghosts, I’d forgotten the specifics of how iDiOM peeled back the layers of the oft-told story to make it their own. It didn’t take long before it all started to come back to me.

Audiences will first suspect something is different upon entering the Lucas Hicks Theater, where they’ll find the stage has been turned into a garbage-strewn alley with steps leading up to an entrance reading “stage door.”

By the time a twinkly eyed Sandy Brewer comes out of this entryway muttering “bah” and “humbug” and otherwise establishing himself as an actor going over his lines before portraying the main role in A Christmas Carol, it won’t be long before patrons will be drawn into the world of the aforementioned actors, who quickly bind and gag Brewer-as-Scrooge to a rolling office chair and proceed to regale him with their fast-paced rendition of Dickens’ masterwork.

What follows is a 90-minute marathon of stellar storytelling that will have those in attendance wondering how the actors managed to not only remember the lines of the plentiful characters they were embodying, but also to bring humor, pathos and powerful presence to the stage while doing so. 

During the production, the ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come make their timely appearances, everybody gets a chance to wear Scrooge’s nightcap, British accents are employed, pretty much every piece of seemingly useless refuse gets its turn under the spotlight, a dumpster becomes a portal for something far more sinister than leftover pizza boxes, and guffaws are well-earned.

But although there are comedic elements throughout the tour de force, director Shu-Ling Hergenhahn-Zhao made sure iDiOM’s version of A Christmas Carol winds up where the rest of the great ones do—with an ending that brings a tear to the eye, and the lesson that if an angry old man can let go of his anger and embrace the true spirit of the season, there might be hope for the rest of us.

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