FON Productions' A Christmas Carol is guaranteed to lift your Christmas Spirits - Past, Present & Future!
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is chestnut that has been roasted over an open fire so many times that you might think it's been totally cremated. You may even be asking yourself whether you should bother seeing the new production at Generation DCD in Burbank. The answer is: Yes, you should. Because you will be glad you did. More than glad. Joyful, ecstatic, renewed in spirit and eager to embrace the holiday season with the gleeful innocence of a child.
The play's description sounds threadbare - a 75-minute, one-man show without props or costumes - but this is not just a dramatic reading of the book. It's a completely engaging theatrical experience that fills the unadorned performance space with magic. With only a scarf round his neck to suggest the winter season, actor Duffy Hudson evokes Scrooge, Marley, Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the three Christmas Spirits like a necromancer summoning them before our eyes; meanwhile, Kyle Schriver (lighting design) and Jennifer Novak (cello and sound effects) judiciously provide all the audio and video enhancements needed to immerse the audience in Dickens' world.
Hudson uses an abridged version of the author's text that omits some descriptive passages and dialogue while retaining essential plot points. Chun's background music alternates between traditional Christmas carols and dramatic underscoring, including atmospheric swirls to accompany Marley's ghost and ominous low notes for the Spirit of Christmas Future. (She also performs carols before the play.) Schriver's lighting subtly suggests settings that we see only in our imaginations. These three basic ingredients combine to form an intoxicating Christmas cocktail.
Dickens was a master wordsmith; his tale never fails to entertain. Nevertheless, it is amazing to see how much vitality Hudson imbues into the familiar story, digesting Dickens' prose and spitting it back out with dramatic enthusiasm, underlining the sentences with intonations, gestures, and pauses that take the written words and make them sound not like rehearsed oration but convincing conversations. Even if (like me) you've seen the many film versions of A Christmas Carol and read the novelette so often it's practically memorized, this performance unfolds before your eyes with the immediacy of something newly discovered. It's not long before the sense of anticipation ("Here comes the scene where Scrooge says, 'underdone potato'") yields to the pathos of being emotionally involved in the story - sneering at Scrooge's avarice, shivering at Marley's ghost, crying over Tiny Tim's tragedy, and finally exulting over Scrooge's redemption.
In light of this last reference, it may now seem time to deliver the obligatory joke about spoiling the ending, but my whole point is this: no matter how well you know the story, this re-enactment will make you feel "light as a feather, happy as an angel, merry as a school-boy, and giddy as a drunken man."
Unfortunately, A Christmas Carol is running this weekend only, with two more performances on Saturday and Sunday at 8pm. If you don't have plans, go see it. If you do have plans, cancel them. It's that good.
A Christmas Carol is presented by Force of Nature Productions (creators of Fallen Saints) at Generation DCD; the address is 1001 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA 91506. The website for the production is fonproductions.com.