Holiday season has its own set of laws. Lights must go up, trees must be trimmed, and stockings must be stuffed. When venturing out on family escapades, one must be certain to visit Santa at the mall, take in some version of The Nutcracker, and sit through yet another treacly evening of A Christmas Carol, straining to stay engrossed as Tiny Tim blesses us all and Ebenezer Scrooge embarks upon his yearly character transformation from miserly miscreant to St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
And while no one would suggest severely cutting back these traditions, even in this season of our recessed content, there is a way out for those folks, like me, who can no longer abide the immersion in overdone Dickensonian sentiment but still wish to include a theatrical paean to the Christmas spirit in his or her holiday plans: Go see The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge at Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
Now there is somewhat of a Catch-22 involved here, because in order to enjoy the immense pleasures of playwright Mark Brown's witty and comical sequel to the Scrooge saga, it is necessary to have at least a passing knowledge of the characters and story line of the original. But really, is there anyone over the age of 10 who is unfamiliar with the rattling chains of Jacob Marley's perdition, the three ghosts of Scrooge's paranormal nightmare or the sweet sadness of the Cratchit family? I thought not.
So, armed with these visions, what a treat to witness the year after, when Scrooge, who has seemingly come to his senses, sheds his giddy and preternatural happiness, and hauls into court all those who have frightened, threatened, kidnapped, tricked and/or browbeaten him into becoming the anti-Ebenezer, all bubbly, bright and absurdly generous. That includes Marley himself and the diaphanous spirits of Christmas past, present and future. The resulting trial is a fun-filled romp of droll role reversals and inverted attitudes wherein the do-gooders get their comeuppance and misanthropy gets its due.
Director Jim Helsinger's cast is absolutely wonderful. Joe Vincent, as Scrooge, is cocky, imperious and unapologetic. His entire opening statement to the court is curt, succinct and right on the money: "Bah humbug!" Brown (whose script was workshopped by OST for a 2005 world premiere) does admirable double duty as Solomon Rothschild, the puffed-up, pompous lawyer defending his ethereal charges, and Ron Schneider is more than a match for the dueling attorneys as the overbearing judge. J.D. Sutton, Desiree Bacala, Nathan Gregory, Anne Hering and Brad Roller round out the cast, playing multiple parts with panache and superb comic delivery. Kudos, as well, to the production staff, especially costume designer Kristina Tollefson for her imaginative array of adornments.
Here's hoping that The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a yearly tradition that, while not replacing Dickens' heartfelt original, at least serves as its hilarious firstname.lastname@example.org
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