Scrooge is Humane in ‘A Christmas Carol’?

That Scrooge, he’s always a miserly and dispirited creature. A true workaholic, having him as a boss can be a bit much for the employee who’s wanting some time off with the family and maybe a fraction of cheer. But who knows, Scrooge can have his coal heart and eat it, too. Part of the appeal of seeing A Christmas Carol is to see Scrooge’s familiar progression from crusty old man to Santa Claus.

Perhaps not that bipolar, Trinity Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol presents him as a man who can’t stand having carolers sing jolly songs at his door or anything pertaining to the Christmas holiday. Even the wreath on his stark red door gets the workout as its thrown about and almost ends up in the furnace.

After having worked on a production of Carol at the Alley Theatre in Houston, I was curious to see how Trinity Rep can enliven such a story. While the Alley’s version contained more gothic and supernatural elements to the tale, Trinity goes inside the mindset and psychology of Scrooge and shows you why he’s become the fussy, no-nonsense man everyone loves to hate.

At a fast-paced 90-minute single act, the play goes through all the motions of the Christmas Spirits, but it did not feel at all rushed. Directed by an alum of the Trinity/Brown University M.F.A. Consortium, Michael Perlman, he displays the efficient timing and skill of balancing all the plot structures and making it engaging. Aided by a live musical ensemble ensconced to the side of the stage, the production benefits from the underscoring of various Christmas songs sung by the company throughout the proceedings. But there was just an instant or two where the musical accompaniment overplayed the volume of the actors’ dialogue.

Company member Mauro Hantman shows his strength by playing all the emotions that Scrooge experiences in his one night. Expertly cruel and monstrous early on, Hantman has that natural transformation where he displays Scrooge as a downright giddy and humanistic fellow with a warm soul towards the end.

Matt Clevy flew in for his grandly ominous entrance as Jacob Marly, setting forth the eventful premise of the three spirits stopping by. Rachel Warren was an appropriately haughty spirit of the Past. The Ghost of Christmas Present were actually two comically foppish types played by Jude Sandy and Joe Wilson, Jr. Giving the show some energy and humor, these two men actually laugh and ridicule Scrooge as they show him what his relatives think of him. Without any physical being for the Ghost of Christmas Future, it came in only by a series of uninteresting flashing lights. Blink and Scrooge’s future may be gone in an instant.

The production design by Patrick Lynch has its special enhancements like the multi-colored Victorian-style doors to spruce up the familiar story of Scrooge and Marley’s Ghosts. Perlman’s direction has the entire company use up every aisle for the start of the show and throughout to create an environmental concept. The period British costumes by William Lane were an evocative and elegant touch, especially for the Ghosts of Christmas Present.

After doing my share of Carol at the Alley, this edition by Trinity Rep was a welcome and though-out rendition that had its balance of chill and laughter. Moving at a steady and conscious pace, the show doesn’t become old and weary. Of course, it’s always a treat when you are befallen by snow indoors. As Scrooge was instilled some Christmas humanity by his Spirits, let’s enjoy this Christmas Spirit upon us. Merry Christmas to you and everyone!

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