by Amber Gallery · December 18, 2013
Indie Artists on New Plays #31: Amber Gallery comments on Blessed Unrest's A Christmas Carol
At its best, independent theater is inventive, emotional, inspiring and has the ability to transform the atmosphere in a room full of people. In the several years I have been attending shows by Blessed Unrest, they have never ceased to amaze.
Blessed Unrest’s latest seasonal offering is A Christmas Carol. Yes, we all know the story. Yes, it’s been done to death. And yet, upon hearing Jessica Burr and Matt Opatrny were taking on this 19th Century classic, I was excited to see what would come of it and I was not disappointed.
Opatrny has breathed new life and emotional intellect into this adaptation. Many I’ve seen are a more simplistic “bad-man-turned-good-overnight” story. Ebeneezer Scrooge, played with lovely subtlety and quiet humor by Damen Scranton, is not purely rotten on Christmas Eve nor is he completely transformed by Christmas morning. The reasons for the way he behaves are more closely examined through his relationship with his deceased sister and the strain in his relationship with his father. He is a quirky, sad and uninspired individual as opposed to a tyrant.
In addition, Opatrny has resuscitated and highlighted Dickens’s political motivations. The well-written discussions and musings on rich vs. poor are accessible and timely given our country’s current situation. The plot of the story is intact and recognizable: Jacob Marley, the visiting three ghosts, Tiny Tim and the lot, but this A Christmas Carol employs the grace of a drama, not the quaintness of a tale.
As in past productions at Blessed Unrest, Jessica Burr’s clever staging and choreography are at times ingenious. The production employs six actors playing all the roles, and the multiple casting lends to everything from the silliness of a heavily bearded man in a bonnet and skirt to the poignancy of Scrooge’s nephew and sister being played by the same actress. The costumes and the actors’ inflections anchor us in the time period, while the set is comprised of little more than movable doors and trunks, utilized with grace by the very physically adept actors. Wonderful treats abound in this production: a choreographed dance number guaranteed to make you smile broadly, physical feats and maybe even the shedding of a tear (or two).
A shout out must be given to the standout performer of the evening, Nathan Richard Wagner as Bob Cratchit (and others), who is in equal parts both physically talented and an astute and emotionally skilled actor.
If you are a theatre lover, and want a new take on a classic that is a cut-above, Blessed Unrest’s A Christmas Carol is a must-see this season.