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A Christmas Carol (2011)

a Holiday Special
CATEGORY :
by Charles Dickens

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4195

SHOWING : December 01, 2011 - December 18, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

You Know the Story -- it never gets old (no Humbug)!


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Come Into My Parlour
by Dedalus
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
5.0
For the third straight year, let me sing the praises of Anthony Rodriguez’s one-man “Christmas Carol,” playing in Aurora’s intimate black-box theatre. Since my reaction this year is on par with last year, let’s just revisit what I said last year (and the year before that):

If you feel a sense of déjà vu after seeing it, you won’t be surprised to see it is the same adaptation by Tony Brown that is used by the Shakespeare Tavern. Not only that, but both productions were directed by Mr. Brown. (I always thought he was “larger than life,” but now, it’s apparent he’s his own clone.)

Still, the approach here is different enough that I didn’t feel I was seeing the same show. Even though the adaptation is, at heart, a “storyteller’s” version, the Tavern uses multiple narrators and actors to tell the story, but the Aurora has only Mr. Rodriguez, on stage alone for the entire (BRISK!) 75-minute running time, engaging us completely with his spinning of this oft-told tale (though perhaps not “oft” enough for my Dickensophile tastes).

The small Aurora stage is set like a stripped-down Victorian parlour. Mr. Rodriguez comes out early, playing himself, greeting patrons he knows by name, even giving out some Christmas cards. He quickly segues into his story, pouring a childlike delight in his retelling of the tale. Occasionally interrupting himself with ad-libbed commentary (“Dickens apparently had some food issues”), often directing whole segments to specific audience members (especially any children present), tossing character voices hither and yon as if they were tinsel thrown on a tree, he makes the entire presentation a spell-binding delight. A sound technician occasionally throws in live effects or off-stage voices, but, when all is said and done, this is Mr. Rodriguez’s show.

I’ve always had a fondness for Patrick Stewart’s one-man “Carol,” (I listen to the recording every year), and this has set the bar high for any other version. Mr. Stewart gave a bravura actor’s turn, bringing all his training and experience into a seemingly endless parade of character and voice. Who could match that achievement? Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Brown made the smart attempt to not even try. Rather than focusing their efforts on a singular achievement of acting, they created a singular achievement of story-telling. They are, in effect, showing us the English parlour readings that Dickens himself gave of the story, recreating the very real pleasure of sitting down and hearing a master storyteller spin his webs of imagination and delight. Mr. Rodriguez makes no bones about being himself throughout, and makes for a more compelling (and welcoming) story-teller. It’s a very different focus, and to my mind, provides very different (and perhaps greater) pleasures than the strictly Thespian approach.

As usual, there are a lot of “Christmas Carols” from which you may choose this year, and, to my story-philic eyes, this adaptation is one of the best. If you love this story as much as I do, you can’t do much better than taking the trip to Lawrenceville and watching Mr. Rodriguez weave his spell.

Last year, I made the snide comment that the only thing that would have been made the experience better, would have been free cocoa to sip while wallowing in the tale. This year, Mr. Rodriguez offered me some. It doesn’t get any better than that!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)




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