By KIM HWANG
AAP theater review
MINNEAPOLIS (Nov. 27, 2019) — “A Christmas Carol” opened is running through Dec. 29 at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Directed by Lauren Keating, the 2019 version of this classic holiday story is about the dismal Ebenezer Scrooge receiving the Christmas message of hope.
Mr. Scrooge, played by Nathaniel Fuller, is a miserly and deeply troubled old man. His reflections about his life were at the center of the two-hour play.
The old Ebenezer Scrooge is forced to examine his life and failed relationships through three very cynical and tyrannical lenses: The ghosts of his past, present and future. Each ghost, Ghost of Christmas Past played by Elizabeth Reese, Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Ansa Akyea and Ghost of Christmas Future, played by Andy Frye reflected ways in which Ebenezer Scrooge’s emotional turmoil and stingy ways manifested into a life of bitter resentment, anger and isolation.
In this year’s, “A Christmas Carol,” a lot of time and focus was spent on Ebenezer Scrooge’s failed relationships. The story line was primarily dedicated to the pain Scrooge caused others, which made his epiphanies about failing people toward the end of the play seem contrived.
What happened to the adorable and charming Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, the holiday work place feast dance number from past years and Yule Tide cheer? The absence of full stage dance numbers, humor and joyful singing in years past was disappointing.
These noticeable differences created a very serious portrayal of how necessary it is to live a reflective life. On the other hand, it significantly changed the mood of the production from festive to depressingly somber. One ticket holder from the Twin Cities said, “I didn’t leave with that feel good experience, like I have in other years.” Scrooge’s narcissism woven through the production from beginning to end, felt much like the holiday dinner minus the fun family member that brings everyone together.
I was disappointed that scenes were cut which offered a balance of emotions. The production felt more like a play than a production. Scrooge was steeped in deep and unrelenting regret, more so than years before. The Ghost of Christmas Past, played by Elizabeth Reese was truly convincing, but the chains and shackles seemed overdone. This scene played more like a haunted house than a build up to a holiday musical.
In years past, “The Christmas Carol,” has been famous for packing the stage full of incredible choreographed dance numbers and vocal talents. Humor and songs explosively filled the stage.
Even so, the extraordinary costumes by Costume Designer, Mathew J. LeFebvre, beautiful sets by Walt Spangler and the technological modes of transportation of ghosts were exquisitely provocative. Scenic designer Walt Spangler, lighting designer Christopher Akerlind, recreated lighting designer Ryan Connealy, sound designer Scott Edwards, recreated sound designer Reid Rejsa, stage manager Tree O’Halloran, assistant stage managers Jane Heer and Matthew Meeks and assistant director H. Adam Harris, made the stage come to life, as ghosts appeared from nowhere.
The story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly life continues to remind me that anger and bitter resentment can lead to a life of full of regrets. “A Christmas Carol” tries to remind us to focus on what’s abundant. Try to rekindle a spirit of generosity throughout your life before it is too late is the message at the end of the story. Some years we have more to offer than others, kindness is free and forgiveness is freeing.
“A Christmas Carol” allows each of us to remember that giving of ourselves is important and that generosity can take on many forms of kindness. Generosity from within is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to anyone.