“God bless us, everyone.” If you’ve heard it once this season you’re bound to have heard it a dozen times, but the Silver Spring Stage’s production of A Christmas Carol is rather quaint, homey, and down-to- earth for a little last minute holiday cheer if your heart needs warming this Christmas season. Directed by Erin Bone Steele, this translation by Ed Monk keeps quite close to Dickens’ original work with a few added quirks in the production to keep it slightly varied with just enough of a magical sparkle to make it unique while still feeling familiar.
Sound Designer Jamie Coupar is the person that brings a truly enchanting touch of Christmas whimsy to this production. Each of the ghosts is accompanied by a memorable sound effect; the grotesque howl of ominous wind and fog for the Ghost of Christmas Future, sweet chimes of a glistening history for the Ghost of Christmas Past— even Jacob Marley’s ghost gets a roaring rendition of sound. The moaning chorus of Scrooge’s name that replaces the memorable doorknocker scene in this production is particularly chilling, especially when coupled with the doused lighting effect provided by Lighting Designer James Robertson.
Costume Designer Alice Smith, teaming up with Director Erin Bone Steele and the cast, creates a lasting motif for each segment of the production. The scenes that happen in Scrooge’s past include the shadows of his memories bedecked all in white and varying shades of off-white and cream. Everyone that is visited when the Ghost of Christmas present is present wears gray and the future looks dark and dreary with every character outfitted in grisly macabre black costumes. This unique approach to defining the timelines in Scrooge’s story is both clever and symbolic. The actual story, while adhearing to true Dickensian impoverished London does have hints of blue color and earth tones woven into Smith’s design work. The slight disappointment in the overall costuming approach is the outfit saved for the ghost of Christmas Future. The veil does not cover his face completely and the glow-in-the-dark skeleton gloves look a bit childish, making him far less imposing than his character is intended.
This particular adaptation has the role of the narrator fitted into the script; a guiding beacon to the world of beautiful Dickensian imagery that often gets lost in more standard productions. Played by Bethany Hoffman, she does an exceptional job of taking the words of Dickens and allowing them to live upon her tongue every time she describes a passage or a new scene is encountered.
Director Erin Bone Steele does a great job keeping the cast sounding English, albeit in varying dialects and vernaculars and a little all over the map of the British Empire. The pacing does drag in places but only for moments as one scene folds into the next, not a terribly distracting lag but at times it does feel long. Working with Choreographer Dr. Christopher Martin to achieve the fullest merriment conceivable during the Fezziwig Dance Party scene, the pair create a lively sprightly environment that has you tapping your toes along and making you want to join in the fun.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (Laura Ochsman) is a bit soft spoken at times, which clashes with the spirit’s booming nature, but is otherwise a bit of a riot to enjoy as a spiritual tour guide to Scrooge’s current Christmas dilemmas. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Leigh K. Rawls) brings a light touch to the role, infusing the subtlest of sassiness into her approach and making this particular spirit a bit more focused and present than most renditions.
The wonderous thing about the Silver Spring Stage production is that so many family members are related, creating actual resemblance upon the stage. Both Scrooge (Deryl Davis) and his Boy Scrooge Shadow (Nate Davis) from the past are a father and son team. Having these little look-alikes adds an extra warm feeling of happy familial relations to the production.
As for Scrooge himself, he’s particularly terrifying, especially to the chorus of children in the beginning. Deryl Davis tackles the role with a harsh approach that slowly softens as the play progresses. The transformation is slow-going at first, but the payoff becomes worth it in the end. When Davis does hit the major moment of transformation by actual Christmas morning he is rather elated and carrying the soul of a saved man, both vocally and physically differing from how he began the play.
Running Time: Approximately 95 minutes, with one intermission.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 22, 2013 at Silver Spring Stage— 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (301) 593- 6036 or purchased them online.