Trinity Repertory Company recreates the snowy streets of Victorian London in its upstairs Chace Theater for the 36th annual production of A Christmas Carol.
The company sets the mood for this traditional telling of Charles Dickens’ classic without delay, as the children in the cast make their way through the audience and offer shoe shines to patrons seated on the aisles. When the performance formally begins, these youngsters dash onstage to deliver their “earnings” to Jacobus Parker (played by Tom Gleadow), the jovial narrator of this year’s production.
In true Trinity fashion, other actors also take to the aisles and walkways as the story unfolds, immersing the audience in the atmosphere of Scrooge’s London. Lamplighters illuminate hanging lanterns overhead, carolers stroll down the stairways, and Bob Cratchit (Mauro Hantman) speeds past theatergoers as he frets aloud about being late for work on the day after Christmas.
TRC resident actor Timothy Crowe returns to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Crowe’s Scrooge is especially tightfisted and cold-hearted, a fact driven home chillingly at the top of the production. When Scrooge’s ill-fated business partner, Jacob Marley (Stephen Thorne), calls out to his friend, lamenting that he’ll soon be as dead as a doornail, Crowe gives a cool shrug and a callous laugh, dismissing Marley’s pleas by saying a “coffin nail” would be a more fit illustration.
Marley’s death and eerie descent to the grave sets the tone for his ghost’s return. Every year, Trinity finds new and creative means of presenting their otherworldly apparitions, and Marley’s phantom certainly enjoys an impressive, ghostly entrance. Thorne fully expresses Marley’s agony and infuses the character with an uncanny, spectral quality. His Marley maintains a restless edge, suggesting the spirit remains keenly aware of the suffering of humankind around him at all times, even during his most intense dealings with the as yet unrepentant Scrooge.
Crowe begins subtly peeling away Scrooge’s layers of bitterness during his visit to the past. One moment, Scrooge clings to his grumpy ways, the next he sings a melancholy duet with a younger version of himself. Later, he even nabs the Ghost of Christmas Past (Mia Ellis) for an impromptu dance at Fezziwig’s festive Christmastime gathering.
Trinity takes a unique approach to The Ghost of Christmas Present in this year’s production, triple-casting the role to most effectively age the character as his time with Scrooge wears on. The Spirit enjoys a high-energy entrance surrounded by a gaggle of Christmas revelers (Joe Wilson, Jr. and Peter Mark Kendall practically bounding off the stage in their enthusiasm), yet his aspect and his manner grow more solemn with each scene, grounding the joyfulness of the season with the seriousness of Scrooge’s continued reclamation.
Rachael Warren is delightful both as Scrooge’s housekeeper, Mrs. Partlet and as Mrs. Bob Cratchit. She brings life and lightness to each of her scenes. Tom Gleadow, in addition to his role as narrator, also portrays an effervescent Mr. Fezziwig and an unsavory-yet-endearing Old Joe. Mauro Hantman captures Bob Cratchit’s good nature and long-suffering attitude, and his frantic moments of damage control on Christmas Eve (shooing caroling children from Scrooge’s office, slipping a coin to the solicitors for the poor) are both comical and touching. Joe Wilson, Jr. plays multiple roles, from the Undertaker’s Man to an incarnation of The Ghost of Christmas Present, and each transformation speaks to Wilson’s agility in creating any number of distinct characters and personalities on stage.
Eugene Lee crafted an impressive set for the 2012 Carol – complete with a working, oversized clock tower – and his designs make thoughtful and effective use of projections and trapdoors. Alison Walker Carrier created the production’s fine period costumes, and the winter white fabrics and neutral palette of Scrooge’s visit to the past work especially well to establish a feeling of Christmastime nostalgia.
A Christmas Carol plays Trinity Repertory Company’s Chace Theater through December 29, 2012. Tickets are available online at www.trinityrep.com, by phone (401) 351-4242, or by visiting the box office at 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI. Adult ticket prices range from $36-$70 and children’s tickets start at $22 (ages 2-14); $15 bench seating is also available. Contact the box office for group rate information.
Pictured: Timothy Crowe as Ebenezer Scrooge
Photo by Mark Turek