December 14, 2013

Review: Versatile cast has fun while honoring Christmases past

By April Boyle

In this digital age, The Public Theatre in Lewiston reminds patrons of all ages just how magical a good old-fashioned book can be.

THEATER REVIEW

WHAT: “A Christmas Carol” by The Public Theatre

WHERE: 31 Maple St., Lewiston

DATE REVIEWED: Friday

TICKETS: $20 adults, $5 youth (18 and under)

CONTACT: 782-3200, www.thepublictheatre.org

 

In the theater’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol,” a young boy (Oliver Hall) embarks on a journey into his imagination when his parents make him power-off to read Dickens’ classic tale of reclamation.

Oliver is drawn into the “awesome” story as the characters manifest from his imagination into reality on the stage. And he is not just a bystander. Oliver gets to be part of the play, slipping into the roles of a schoolboy, Dick Wilkins, Tiny Tim and the turkey boy.

Dale Place heads up the cast, stepping into Scrooge’s miserly shoes. Russell Berrigan (Bob Cratchit, Marley’s Ghost, Fezziwig and Old Joe); Matthew Delamater (Fred, Christmas Present and Peter Cratchit); Ellen Lindsay (Fan, Mrs. Fezziwig, Belle, Martha and Laundress) and Sheila Stasack (Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit and Charwoman) artfully bring to life multiple characters.

Kacy Woodworth appears as Christmas Future, along with setting the mood with sound effects from the side of the stage. Jennifer Armstrong provides musical accompaniment on the fiddle.

In keeping with the book, the play is told primarily through narration, with Delamater taking on the role of lead narrator.

Using Dickens’ words, the cast weaves a spellbinding tale that requires minimal props to captivate the imagination.

It’s a spirited rendition that mischievously blurs the line between play and reality. The cast members devilishly wave at an unseeing Scrooge as he checks his bedroom for intruders; the doorknocker (Berrigan) adopts a body-builder stance when Delamater stresses it’s large; and cast members humorously interact with Oliver to get his attention.

Delamater perhaps gets to have the most fun with the blurring of reality, making his grand entrance as the Ghost of Christmas Present not just once, but three times. When a snoring Scrooge fails to wake the first time, Delamater goes back out through the window and tries two more times before resorting to other measures.

The cast is clearly reveling in Dickens’ beloved Christmas tale. And, in turn, so does the audience.

The audience gleefully giggled Friday as Place’s curmudgeonly character poked his dressing gown with a cane to ensure no one was hiding in it.

“A Christmas Carol” is a timeless tradition that never loses its appeal. The Public Theatre delivers an engaging rendition that both lifts spirits and captures the charm of the written word.

As an added bonus, Armstrong returns after the 15-minute intermission to deliver a half-hour performance titled “Silent Night.” She regaled the audience Friday with stories from her life and performed original songs and Christmas classics on the bagpipes, guitar and fiddle.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

aprilhboyle@yahoo.com

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