Off-Off-Broadway Theater Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (…blessed unrest…at the Interart Theatre)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on December 7, 2013

in Theater-New York

A LOVELY INNOVATIVE STAGING OF AN OLD FAVORITE

Theater artistry overcomes budgetary constraints in Jessica Burr’s delightful and poignant staging of A Christmas Carol, from Matt Opatrny’s admirable adaptation of Dickens’ novella. Six actors play over seventeen characters in this classic tale of redemption, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, a lonely old miser, is shown the error of his ways by four ghosts.

The excellent Damen Scranton invests his Scrooge with a lovely desperation; one gets the sense that Ebenezer is as much a victim of circumstance when it comes to his stinginess, fear and isolation as those poor and wanting individuals are whose suffering he tries his best to ignore. Tatyana Kot’s emotional authenticity in her roles as Belle and Martha is arresting. And Nathan Richard Wagner, a natural performer, The cast of Blessed Unrest's A CHRISTMAS CAROLbrings a playful, impish quality to his charming personifications; his movements are so fluid and seem so effortless that I would have been only a little surprised if he’d suddenly walked up a wall. The remaining members of this solid cast are: Sora Baek, Jessi Blue Gormezano, and Joshua Wynter.

But with all the fine performances the brightest star in this production is its director, who also choreographs the show. With minimal resources – Neal Wilkinson’s economical set is essentially a few doors and some chests and suitcases, lit evocatively by Cynthia Jankowski – Ms. Burr creates a world with numerous spaces, each with its own specific feel: Scrooge’s cold, cramped office, his dark, musty home, a busy winter-day street, Cratchit’s love-filled residence; there are others. God is in the details, as they say, and the sense one gets is that Ms. Burr scrupulously, lovingly, attends to all of them.

Blessed Unrest's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Damen Scranton as Scrooge, photo by Alan Roche

Ms. Burr isn’t simply staging a narrative, she is taking every opportunity to theatricalize each of its elements: Glasses have scarlet fabric inside to represent wine; when we look in on Scrooge’s nephew we see his dining table and the people seated at it from above as if we are floating just under the ceiling looking down; she has Mr. Wynter, already a tall, well-built man, on stilts when playing the ghost of Jacob Marley, which gives the miserable specter more authority and menace; there is a sheet that turns into a baby and then back into a sheet; and the ghost-demon of Scrooge’s future Ms. Burr creates by having actors contorting and holding each other, in effect making a single, mocking, hideous creature with many faces. Ms. Burr’s choreography, besides being entertaining, is tightly focused, with every movement working in service of the story. She commands the stage with her performers and props, making the action of the play flow and billow like a flag dancer’s flag, turning the performance space and everything in it into one organic, dramatic whole.

photos by Alan Roche

A Christmas Carol
…blessed unrest…
The Interart Theater
scheduled to end on December 22, 2013
for tickets, call 646-238-0829 or visit http://www.blessedunrest.org/

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