A Christmas Carol with Charles Dickens
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Independent Shakespeare Co.
Through December 23
During his lifetime, Charles Dickens was celebrated not only for his writing but for the readings he gave of his work throughout Britain and the United States. By all accounts, Dickens truly loved these public performances; he didn’t simply read the work but acted out the story and depicted the various characters in a grand theatrical manner (His dramatization of the death of Nancy at the hands of Sykes in Oliver Twist is especially famous.). Even when he grew frail following a railway accident in 1865, Dickens continued on the reading circuit, with his last presentation in 1869, some months prior to his premature death at age 58.
One of the works he chose to present in that farewell performance was A Christmas Carol. In an annual holiday offering (the 12th year running), performer David Melville, co-artistic director of ISC, presents his own re-enactment of one of Dickens’ performances, employing the same adapted script as the author himself used.
Directed by Melissa Chalsma, Melville’s not entirely solo adaptation includes the contributions of a Young Actress (Kaleen Ung) who sets the stage, introduces “Mr. Dickens,” and periodically voices a character, adds sound effects (via a xylophone and other instruments) and delivers a lovely solo rendering of “Oh Holy Night.” Her main role, however, is to play straight woman to the antic lead.
As in prior years, the production’s main attraction is the opportunity to appreciate Melville’s versatile talents: his lightning shifts from one character to the next and the silly exuberance he brings to such sequences as his depiction of Scrooge’s “Christmas Past.” His pinched-up miser is sharply delineated, albeit softened by the comedy. As to the story, though it remains treacly, its message of caring for one another in a world run by Scrooges registers as more relevant now than ever.
Independent Studio in the Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex, 3191 Casitas Ave., Atwater; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m, Sat, Dec. 23, 2 p.m., tickets here; through December 23. Tickets here. Running time: approximately 80 minutes with an intermission.