Published in Gay and Lesbian Times December 12, 2002
‘Tis the season… to get Scrooged. Come on, you can get it up for Ebenezer one more time. The San Diego Rep is still doing it — after 27 years! Anyway, what would the holidays be without a couple of “Nutcrackers” and “A Christmas Carol?”
Scrooge has had a wild ride at the Rep. For the past two years, he was in a veritable circus. And there was that gospel rendition, and even a ‘homeless’ version to the timeless classic. Now, the 1843 Dickens of a story is back where it all began… in Victorian England. This year’s edition boasts a newly tweaked script by adaptor Doug Jacobs, a spanking new set by design-wizard Giulio Perrone and direction by the Rep’s most spiritual associate artistic director, Todd Salovey.
We find ourselves in an enlarged version of those collectors’ quaint mini-Victorian villages, with icicles hanging from the rooftops and snow piled up in the cobblestone street. Then out comes Mr. Dickens (in the similar-looking personage of Jonathan McMurtry) to narrate the story and teach us our annual holiday lessons (if only they lasted all year!)
As you may recall, the penny-pinching money-maker, Ebenezer Scrooge, has a heart (somewhat like the Grinch, now appearing at another nearby theater), at least two sizes too small. The old miser is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley, who’s been dead for seven years — and looks none the better for it, dragging chains and appearing, alarmingly, first in the door-knocker and then in the bedroom. Marley warns of the coming of three other spirits, representing Scrooge’s Past, Present and Future, through whom he learns to love Christmas and keep it well, by being good and generous, light-hearted and kind. It’s a sweet, sentimental, tear-jerking holiday perennial that reminds us what this season — and this world — is really all about.
The current Rep production is supposed to have an air of simplicity, and yet it seems quite (perhaps overly) complex. The Ghost of Christmas Past, for instance, is tripartite — three elfin, gender-neutral sprites in duncecaps who run circles around Scrooge like a litter of unruly kittens. Marley (the imposing-voiced John Campion) has an oddly neon-lit, ghoulish face. White-bearded as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Campion speaks in some r-trilled accent of indeterminate origin and sports a robe with a 20-foot, toy-bedecked train that resembles Godzilla’s tail. The very silent Ghost of Christmas Future looks like a giant black nightgown draped over the light-boom. There’s less dancing than one might like at the Fezziwig’s Ball, but the (often a capella) singing is lovely, with Steve Gunderson’s pleasant melodies especially well executed by Julie Jacobs, Tiffany Scarritt and Shana Wride. Susan Mosher and Mark Christpher Lawrence add repeated comic relief.
All told, Salovey has amassed an impressive and talented cast — good singers and competent dancers; two are also in-line (faux-ice) skaters. It’s all very lively and sprightly, but it lacks a certain depth and a wee bit of gravitas. Sean Murray is a rather likable curmudgeon, who plays his part mostly for the laughs. Though his anguish is palpable by the end of the first act, and his joy at salvation is spirited, the piece falls short of touching or breaking your heart. Still, the story worked its magic. As we left the theater, we were accosted by a homeless man and, Scrooge-like (the redeemed Scrooge, that is) we gave more than usual. May the feeling spread throughout the land.
“A Christmas Carol” runs through December 29 at the Rep’s Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza; 619-544-1000 or sandiegorep.com.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc.