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“A Christmas Carol”

A Noise Within’s take on Charles Dickens’ immortal work “A Christmas Carol,” adapted for the stage by Geoff Elliott, is almost brilliant. This is a very ambitious production with a myriad of fantastic technical effects.  When they work the results are stunning.  The original music composed by Ego Plum immediately transports the viewer into the world of the play and provides a beautiful sound-scape for the production.  The opening sequence with the bell-ringers adding their live music on stage is great.  Lighting designer Ken Booth masterfully paints the space with color and shadows and Jeanine A. Ringer’s set is versatile enough to accommodate the varied locales necessitated by the script without becoming cumbersome. The design team for this play did an outstanding job and it is clear to see where directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott are going with this production.  Had they made it there, this production would be phenomenal.  Unfortunately, they came in just shy of the mark.

Geoff Elliott & Deborah Strang  Credit: Craig Schwartz

Geoff Elliott & Deborah Strang
Credit: Craig Schwartz

This show is done with no intermission, yet runs a little over 100 minutes. Which is about twenty minutes longer than young kids can sit still to watch a show without a break. Or at least that was about the timeline for the kids sitting behind me, to the left of me and in front of me.  For adults this length of time isn’t bad, had that timeframe been dictated by the script.  However, the pacing is so unnatural and hurried that moments are rushed, actors are constantly running on and off the stage and many lines become jumbled together because the actors recite them so quickly.  It is as if the actors have the reminder, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up,” constantly repeating in the back of their minds.  Also, due in large part to the fact that the cast is filled out with more than a handful of young performers, this pacing creates a palpable frenetic energy that fills several of the transitions and carries into the subsequent scenes lending an almost manic feel to the proceedings.  Both the story and the visuals could have easily supported two acts with an intermission in between.

A marked disparity also exists within some of the elements.  Angela Balogh Calin costume design is very elegant and there are some very beautiful pieces. Belle and some of the other women wear gorgeous dresses, which are in stark contrast to the garish pink wigs, designed by Caity Hawksley, that are worn during the Fezziwig’s party scene.  Instead of complementing each other the two designs clash.  This clash is also evident in the Jacob Marley scene.  His entrance and the visual dynamic created by the elaborate yards-of-chains effect is fantastic, yet cheapened by the fact that the actor has a string of Christmas lights wrapped around him.  Yes, this addition does add a reminder of our modern day consumerism and tacky approach to the holiday, but it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story being told.

All in all this is a good production and most of my complaints could fall under the category of nit-picking. There were many aspects that I very much enjoyed like the moments of almost childish petulance that Elliott infused into his Scrooge.  However, the magnificence of what this production could have been is so apparent, that the misses stand out like gleaming beacons.


*Coverage provided for  the Culver City News