Probably one of the most overadapted pieces of literature in the English language, "A Christmas Carol" endures for a reason: It's a light morality tale with a supernatural spin that encourages even the most miserly bastards to aspire to something better. Oh, and it's also hard to screw up.
More difficult, however, is bringing originality to the material while still respecting the original text, but that is exactly what director Michael Todd and company have done. Todd, a faculty member at Oklahoma City University, put his extensive experience producing and directing experimental theater to good use, creating a version of "A Christmas Carol" that is fresh but still familiar.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a businessman who has devoted himself entirely to the pursuit of money at the expense of others. Devoid of friendship, love or charity, Scrooge is warned by the specter of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, that if he does not change his ways, he will be cursed in death forever. To expedite this process Scrooge is visited by three ghosts that guide him through an examination of his life and choices.
The streamlined adaptation by D. Lance Marsh does a good job of emphasizing all the essential elements from the story while still allowing for room to explore, emphasize and expound upon the setting, characters, and themes "? all in a very family-friendly 90 minutes.
The play is simply gorgeous. The costume design by Billie Boston is fantastic across the board, but her work on Marley stands out in particular. The sets are very dynamic in both their placement and mobility, allowing for organic transitions between scenes. The lighting, art direction and audio cues all work together to create an atmosphere that taps into some of the more Gothic aspects of the story without ever becoming too dark.
Doug Brown gives a brilliantly idiosyncratic performance, creating a Scrooge that is actually funny and complex and that you can never take your eyes off. Hal Kohlman delivers a haunting performance (pun intended) as Jacob Marley.
The play opens with him using a conductor's baton to direct the chaos and traffic on the street outside of Scrooge's office. The increased use of Marley redefines the focus of the play creating two parallel stories of redemption: one for Scrooge and one for Marley, cleverly played out in the silences between scenes. The cast is rounded out by a number of strong supporting performances by OCU students.
TheatreOCU joined Oklahoma Children's Theatre, to create "A Christmas Carol" and the local production features a large number of kids whose performances help to keep the tone of the play loose and light. That, coupled with the dynamic adaptation, creates a performance full of artistic triumphs that entertain without pretentiousness.