A More Accurate Dickensian Christmas: “A Christmas Carol”

Presented by The Nora Theatre Company
By Charles Dickens
Adapted and directed by Debra Wise
Choreography by Susan Dribble
Dramaturgy by Siobahn Caroll & Iris Smith-d’Agincourt

Nov. 24 – Dec. 31, 2017
Central Square Theater
Cambridge, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Cambridge, MA) Modern-day London is as much of a melting pot of cultures as New York City. In Dickens’s Victorian London, immigrants from all over Europe flocked to England. Right now, London is a thickly settled, racially diverse city with citizens representing nearly every country and continent in the world. Then just as now, immigrants from non-European countries did travel about the globe. If Shakespeare can devise a play about an Black officer in the Venetian army, then it’s conceivable that Indians dwelt among the working class 250 years later. That the Nora Theater’s A Christmas Carol incorporates music and dance from outside the England’s stereotypical whiteness is less surprising than it is a refreshing example of reclaiming history.

Nora Theatre’s production has something new to offer New England audiences: diversity. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Mesma Belsare) whips Scrooge (Ken Cheeseman) through time by performing classical Indian dance. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Vincent Ernest Siders) accompanies Scrooge’s complaints with a steel drum. The Ghost of Christmas Future speaks to Scrooge through the voices of the impoverished working class. Even the impoverished Cratchit family is Irish (and presumably Catholic). Their performances are a treat and a beautiful change for the better.  

This is a production heaping with joy and compassion. Scrooge is portrayed by Cheeseman as a broken man with severe abandonment issues. He isn’t a entitled villain scared into kindness by dyspepsia.Unlike the 1%, Scrooge uses cruelty to prevent further heartbreak and not because he’s an entitled miser. Cheeseman channels John Hurt as he explores Scrooge’s inner workings.   

There are child actors in this production. Their energy and passion are effusive, and they could stand to enunciate.

The true stars of this production are the set and puppet designer teams lead by David Fichter, Elizabeth Rocha, Abby Shenker. The puppetry and roving set design working in A Christmas Carol is exceptional even for Boston’s high standards (readers unaware of Boston’s thriving puppetry community are missing out). Their work, as with all of the other elements in this production, are exemplary and worth studying to implement elsewhere.  

There is a short pre-show entertainment buffet of performances. Children and adults are encouraged to engage with the cast members banging drums, playing the fiddle, reading fortunes and giving puppet shows. While the pre-show is intended to be fun, extra-sensitive children and adults should take note that the sustained noise level could be overwhelming to some ears. Central Square Theater echoes, and sounds within reverberate. If ear plugs are an option for attendees, please bring them. Otherwise, the lobby is warm and quiet during the performance.

In the program notes by Siobahn Carroll and Debra Wise, we are reminded that A Christmas Carol is reimagined each time it is brought to the stage. Every year, new productions claim to breathe new life into Dickens’ tale. In a brilliant change, the Nora Theatre’s production does actually give audiences a new look into the classic Christmas ghost tale. London past, present, and future are blended seamlessly into a joyful production meant for the entire family to experience.

A Christmas Carol run about 2 hour and 10 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission. The level of energy expected of both cast and audience is high. Younger audience members may experience exhaustion. This adult definitely did.

 

Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned Nazi to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

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