Reviewed online by Mary Paige Rieffel
The year is 2020 and live theatre has been on pause for about 10 months. The performing arts community has valiantly shown its perseverance and passion for continuing to create from the get-go by utilizing the virtual world to share creative content. It is a testament to our own community to see people at a local level make art happen and distribute it (in this case for free even).
This morning I masked up and braved the outside world for last minute stocking stuffers and libations for the coming Christmas holiday. The whole while I found myself giddy to have to be home by a certain time in order to see a show. As much as I miss performing, the pangs I feel for being an audience member do rival it.
I made myself a cocktail, sat on my bedroom floor, and brought Joseph Zettelmaier’s Ebenezer by Clio Cast and Crew right to my television via YouTube.
The play begins with Ebenezer Scrooge (Jordan Reed) years after the events of A Christmas Carol, ill and under the care of nurse, Alice (Rebecca Norris). We learn he is indeed a changed man from the events he is famous for in A Christmas Carol. Reed did very well playing a character well above his own years and remained engaged throughout the very long and wordy exchange with Norris who also displayed her acting chops by remaining measured and grounded as well as being able to characterize three different characters through the action of the play. We learn that Ebenezer saved her life many years ago, and we are transported to the past to watch how the story unfolded.
Alice was caught picking a pocket by the now charitable Ebenezer and a familiar character, now a grown man and apprentice to Ebenezer, Tim Cratchit (Jeff Rogner).
I must truly say that the clear face shields they used were not distracting to me (other than possibly causing the wonky audio on Ebenezer’s microphone). The full facial expressions were clear and there was enough expression physically and vocally from the actors to keep the story up and moving.
We flash back to the “present” and the weighty discussion on virtue, fate and leaving a legacy continues. Tim, now, Timothy, even more grown than before and a Royal Naval Officer, arrives in the Christmas Eve hospital bedchamber. During this scene a fun exchange concerning Americans from a faux Dickensian point of view occurs that I quite enjoyed.
Ebenezer goes into another fit nearly throwing himself out the window calling and hoping for the famed spirits to once again appear. He then tells Cratchit the story of his famous journey many years ago for the very first time resulting in an emotional outburst from the troubled Timothy.
Finally, this very interesting script arrives at a point where Timothy and Alice are seen as possessed by the Spirits of Christmas Present and Christmas Past. They proceed to convince Ebenezer to take up the mantle of The Ghost of Christmas Future. He reluctantly accepts as long as he can be a harbinger of hope rather than doom, which the previous incarnation that he met at his own grave at the climax of the original tale proved to be.
He passes peacefully. Alice and Timothy lament his death but rejoice in the lesson of his legacy.
Director William Kircher is to be applauded for this unique effort. The camerawork and editing was very tight and the costuming and set designs were clean and effective. It all assisted the story telling very well.
Although the energy and laughter of a live audience would have helped the nuggets of potential humor in this piece, I found this production to be just great. I commend anyone putting in the time to make and produce art this year. Theatre is a vibrant and tenacious art form, and I can’t wait for all theatres along with Clio Cast and Crew to continue to create, whether it’s online or live.