I was somewhat intrigued by the use of Edward Gorey's classic Gashlycrumb Tinies on the postcard for A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley- Gorey's doomed tots tie in nicely with the Tiny Tim character and the sense of averted doom that hovers over Dickens' most famous work. Though I assumed there would be some bleak interest in the adaptation to set it apart from the usual, it's not the first time I've been misled by a postcard.
The venerable Israel Horovitz has adapted Dickens' novel rather by the numbers, aside from giving Marley (Ken Glickfeld) the role of a somewhat vaudevillian narrator cum Mr. Exposition when he's not scaring the nightshirt off Ebenezer Scrooge (John Gazzale). The script ticks along competently enough, but the actors (directed by Robert Bruce McIntosh) all seem to be working against the sincerity of the text, affecting strange cartoonish voices and caricatures. Perhaps they were under the impression that A Christmas Carol is children's fare, and therefore not meant to be taken "seriously", but the story is undermined by every artificial note that is rung.
Caitlin Davies, as the Ghost of Christmas Past, though lovely, is a major offender on the silly voice front, often sounding like a child's magician with how maaaaaaaaaagical things can be- she's more sedate in her other role as Martha, one of Cratchit's older children. Dan Graff as the Ghost of Christmas Present, in his open shirt and tight pants with Christmas package, is a bit more tall and virile than the usual portly Father Christmas vision of the character, so his advancing on Scrooge (often tossing him over his shoulder and carrying him around) and admonitions to "touch my robe" often come off as humorously prurient; at other times his jollity combined with his height is reminiscent of a certain vegetable-loving Green Giant.
Horovitz's conception of Marley is at odds with the usual interpretation as well- Marley is usually portrayed as a woeful and frightening spirit come to save Scrooge from Hell because he's there himself; in this production we only get brief flashes of that when Marley wants emphasis, the rest of the time he's played as a dear old grandfather. Jeremy Brena is strangely subdued for a man who loves Christmas as much as Cratchit, as though he's playing Tiny Tim's death through the whole play. Gazzale's Scrooge is another caricature, made up within an inch of his life, but barely scratching the surface of the character's pain that caused him to be the way he is, and missing out on much of the bleak humor of the role.
The large ensemble has a few standouts in Betty Hudson and Gregory Adair, though few of the ensemble seem to actually understand the meaning of the story, and indeed in some cases the actual words they're saying (they all sing very well, bursting out with Christmas carols in harmony at the drop of a top hat- great musical direction by John Bronston- so perhaps they were chosen for those skills above all else). The children are adorable, at least, if not always effective.
Set and lights by Francisco Solorzano are competent and minimally effective. Victoria Malvagno's costumes are rather odd, giving perfectly fine clothes to the Cratchit Family, nothing very special for Fezziwig, and the aforementioned Sexy Christmas Present. Michael LoPorto's sound design is fine, if a bit heavy on the same repeated thunder cue. Live music by Aidan Koehler adds some nice visceral moments. Though the theatrical elements are all in place, it feels soulless, a ploy for holiday ticket buyers' money, adding up to a false and calculated whole.
This production is #12 in Barefoot Theatre Company's 70/70 Horovitz project, a year-long, world-wide festival celebrating Israel Horovitz's 70th birthday with 70 of his plays; while Horovitz is a great playwright and Barefoot is a great theatre company, neither of them are doing their best work here.
Horse Trade Theater Group presents
Barefoot Theatre Company's
A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley
Adapted by Israel Horovitz
The Kraine Theater
(85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery)
December 10-12, 16-19, 22-23 @ 8pm and December 13 & 20 @ 3pm.
Tickets ($18) are available by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or online at www.horseTRADE.info