December 2, 2010
By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer
The ghosts of Christmases past, present and future came to life Wednesday during TheatreWorks’ performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
The Black Box Theatre in uptown Martinsville was packed for the preview performance with more than 120 people in the audience, said Barbara Parker, director of programs at Piedmont Arts Association and TheatreWorks liaison.
That will continue all weekend, Parker said, because all four remaining performances have sold out.
In addition to a full house, the performance boasts a full cast. There are 22 actors, some of whom play multiple parts.
The Black Box Theatre provides an intimate atmosphere with audience and actors, because the actors enter from the aisle and perform on a slightly elevated stage. The effect, combined with a set designed to resemble an old-fashioned sitting room, gives viewers the illusion of being seated in the middle of 19th century England.
The costumes and dialogue also reference the era in which the classic Christmas tale was written. The actors wear frilled collars, long coats and period gowns created by costume and set designer Roland Guidry.
The actors, costumes and sets all helped put the audience in the time period and place, but the lighting and sound took the performance from dramatic to supernatural. Several key players in the story of “A Christmas Carol” are the ghosts that haunt Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Jason Lagesse.
The first ghost to make an appearance is Scrooge’s deceased colleague, Jacob Marley. While Scrooge sits alone by the fireplace, he sees a ghoulish figure appear. The convincing apparition is created with the help of the sets, which are made of dark mesh screens.
A green-faced creature can be seen through a picture frame above the fire, illuminated by an invisible stagehand. When the creature speaks, an eerie echo is heard throughout the theater.
When Scrooge realizes the apparition is the ghost of his former colleague, the spirit comes out and warns Scrooge to mend his miserly ways. Marley’s ghost, played by Anthony Mills, drags heavy chains across the floor and wears a frightening mask and startling white wig.
Later, the ghost of Christmas past, played by Marion Johnson, appears covered in tiny lights. In addition to frightening Scrooge, her voice is distorted through a microphone and other sound effects, creating a creepy atmosphere.
The sound design and audio mix were created by Tom Berry of Snow Creek Sound.
The lighting design was created by Mary Coulson. The lights help to convince the viewers that despite minimal scene changes, the characters travel from Scrooge’s sitting room into other locations in the past, present and future.
Throughout the play, Scrooge loudly asserts his grumpy attitude, insisting that Christmas is a waste of a good work day. He wonders why people would “waste a day singing silly songs,” especially if they have no wealth to enjoy.
As one cast member put it during the play’s introduction, “No eye at all is better than the evil eye of Scrooge.”
However, by the time Scrooge has been visited by the ghost of Christmas present, he is beginning to defrost. The audience sees him question the ghost on the well-being of Tiny Tim, played by Jarrett Moore.
Tiny Tim is the handicapped son of Scrooge’s employee, Bob Crachit, played by Jamie Donovant. Scrooge’s transition from “bah humbug” to “Merry Christmas” continues when he receives a final visit from the ghost of Christmas yet to come, played by Kendall Ledyard.
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