'Little Dickens' falls short

Rick Miller and Daniel Sbriglio.
Rick Miller and Daniel Sbriglio.
Photo by Michal Daniel
Want and Ignorance Present: Little Dickens ends up being an uneasy marriage between the theatrical and the audio-visual that doesn't take its concept far enough to be compelling. 

It marks an interesting collaboration between the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts and Dance department with the Moving Company, the newish group that includes Steve Epp, Dominique Serrand, and Nathan Keepers.

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The original concept comes from Marcus Dilliard and a group of U of M design and technology theater students, who crafted a backdrop made up of bits and pieces of A Christmas Carol, from black-and-white retellings to Scrooge McDuck and Mr. Magoo. 

Epp merges this with a modern-day twist on the story. In a Manhattan high rise in modern days, Tiny Tim has become a modern-day Scrooge, parlaying his catch phrase into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. It's not too hard to draw parallels between the one percent and their supporters and Scrooge's worldview. 

The short piece doesn't take that concept very far from its roots, reaching mainly for low-hanging fruit instead of sharper insight into what would make someone like Tiny Tim tick. Scrooge has endured over the past century and a half because he's an intriguing character: a person who has lost his way, but has his reasons for the way he is. There's no doubt that some people are just built on avarice and greed. They don't, however, make interesting characters.

Serrand and Keepers direct a pair of young actors (Daniel Sbriglio and Rick Miller) as Tiny Tim and the various characters he meets over Christmas night. The acting lacks sharpness, as if the performers don't go the necessary step and crawl into their characters' skins.

The strongest aspect is the original idea. The visuals -- provided by a mixture of projection screens and flat-screen televisions -- carry the most weight here, providing an immersive, multi-media examination of the Scrooge myth. Again, it needs to be taken to another level to be truly compelling, but it feels like they are on the right track.

Maybe that's the main takeaway here. The creators are on the right track with the work, but it feels incomplete, as if it is in an uneasy space between a sketch and a fully fledged piece (it runs about 35 minutes at present). The potential is there, but Little Dickens hasn't come close to reaching it.


Want and Ignorance Present: Little Dickens
Through Sunday
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
For tickets and information, call  612-874-6338 or visit online.

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Open Eye Figure Theatre

506 E. 24th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55405


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