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It’s hard to believe this is the 27th year for Pollard Theatre Company’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic set in territorial Oklahoma.

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It’s hard to believe this is the 27th year for Pollard Theatre Company’s A Territorial Christmas Carol, the adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic set in territorial Oklahoma, so this might be a good time to revisit the play and see how it’s doing. To paraphrase Dickens, the production is neither the best of times nor the worst of times.

One wonders how director W. Jerome Stevenson and his creative team and cast keep the show fresh year after year. I noticed a few minor alterations since seeing it seven years ago, but in large part, the production seems unchanged. It’s still played on Gary May’s scenic design with a raked stage and two turntables that keep the action moving. Whether the production stands up to repeat viewing depends on if you prefer sticking with the familiar or like to be adventurous in theatergoing.

The adaptation by Stephen P. Scott includes much local color. Scrooge’s office is in Guthrie. Boomers, Langston and Cottonwood Creek make appearances. Scott’s version of Scrooge is crueler than Dickens’ in his parsimoniousness. The Oklahoma Scrooge seems to relish foreclosing on widows and Civil War veterans for the sheer sport of it. He raises his cane, albeit in jest after being reformed, as if to strike his clerk, Bob Cratchit.

In his estimated (no one at Pollard knows for sure) 15th year playing Scrooge, James Ong brings a grizzled gruffness to the part, which fits the setting. This Scrooge is not the businessman of Dickens’ London; he’s a pioneer eking out a living in a rough land. Ong tends to mug at times, but in this production, he, for the most part, stays in character. His Scrooge makes a credible transformation from curmudgeon to philanthropist. Ong is one of Oklahoma’s longtime actors who has played a host of leading and supporting roles. It would be interesting if Pollard could find another drama or comedy to feature him.

Other actors give solid performances. Jared Blount plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and others ranging from sincere to creepy. Joshua McGowen is appealing as both Scrooge’s nephew and the undertaker who buries him. The reliable Gwendolyn Evans does a fine job as a widow plagued by Scrooge and the maid who steals the shirt off his dead back. Trinity Goodwin gives a solid performance as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Whether set in 19th-century London or territorial Oklahoma, A Christmas Carol contains certain universal truths. My favorite scene is when the Ghost of Christmas Present admonishes Scrooge (and, at the same time, the rest of us) to beware Want and Ignorance, especially the latter (personified by two child actors). Dickens’ words remain as relevant today as they were when he took his pen and set them to paper well over a century ago.

Print headline: Land ho, Pollard Theatre’s long-running A Territorial Christmas Carol remains a pleasingly consistent Oklahoma staple.

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