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Jefferson Mays Intrigues in A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
Directed by Michael Arden
208 West 41 Street
Opened Nov. 21, 2022
Closes Jan 1, 2023
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 19, 2022
Charles Dickens’ novella, “A Christmas Carol,” was first published Dec. 19, 1843. It met with immediate critical and popular success. The first run of 6,000 sold out by Christmas Eve. Three stage productions opened in February 1844. And since that time, the story has been adapted for film, radio, opera, ballet, animation, musicals and even a mime starring Marcel Marceau.
One might well ask, what can anyone add to these numerous manifestations of the Dickens’ classic? And then along comes Jefferson Mays’ solo show that fascinates, entertains and frightens in its own unique way.
Mays, who has earned great acclaim for his solo performance in Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife, once again uses his flexible body, mobile face and versatile vocal expression, to create a variety of characters. Yes, all our favorite heroes and villains come to life in the words and actions of one man, from the miserly Scrooge to the kindhearted Bob Cratchit.
The story has been adapted by Mays, Susan Lyons and director Michael Arden. They have kept all of Dickens’ sentiment but added a touch of humor that will appeal to a modern audience. But even more important, the script provides a platform for Mays to show his great talent. Mays can be kindly and evil, ordinary and just plain weird. He seduces us like a charlatan with a beckoning finger. Only we never feel cheated.
Mays walks through many different sets, designed by Dane Laffry (who is also responsible for the costumes) that appear and disappear thanks to hidden machinery. The suspense and mystery are vastly aided by the special effects created by lighting designer Ben Stanton and sound designer Joshua D. Reid: fog, thunder, lightning, the sudden emergence of ghosts.
And, of course, the message is still there. If you live a meanspirited life and care for nobody but yourself, you will die unloved and unremembered. That is unless you mend your evil ways, as Ebeneezer Scrooge does after the nocturnal visits of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
But, most delightfully, this production never takes itself too seriously, from the opening scenes in Scrooge’s office to the very end when Mays delivers those famous last words, “God bless us, everyone!”
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