Theater Spotlight: A Christmas Carol

Stephen Epp (Jacob Marley) and Peter Michael Goetz (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the Guthrie Theater production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Michal Daniel

There is an overwhelming sense of inevitability to the Guthrie's annual foray into this Victorian narrative of an old man's conversion from despicable bastard to merry purveyor of largesse and sunshine, and no matter how you festoon this particular gift, its opening will resolutely fail to surprise. But leaving aside (pertinent) questions of why a sizable segment of our population ponies up dough to see the same show year after year, there's no question that this year's model is tight, polished, and delivered with aplomb. The play comes in at a tidy hour and a half with no intermission, as director Gary Gisselman keeps the focus on a brisk pace and sharp storytelling. Peter Michael Goetz's Scrooge in the early going lives his life like a gourmand at a bad-karma buffet, belittling the sunny Fred (Robert O. Berdahl) and the hapless Bob Cratchit (Lee Mark Nelson) from his buzzard's perch behind his desk and books. Steven Epp lends a cool, often slimy touch to his Jacob Marley (ethereally tortured in death, a greedy letch in life), and he is a downright scary Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (it's not so much learning the news that you'll die alone and unloved, it's having it delivered with such silently debonair relish). We pretty much slam-bang through Scrooge's night of supernaturally induced existential enlightenment, though the scene in which the young Scrooge (John Skelley) blows things with his bride Belle (Prentiss Standridge) due to his deeply unattractive avarice, then another in which Scrooge witnesses nephew Fred defending the old goat from a roomful of jokes and japes, are genuinely touching. Goetz effectively humanizes Ebenezer with small touches, when not indulging a streak of cornball excess in the later going, and he conveys Scrooge's journey as essentially a lesson in humility. There's nothing lightweight, after all, about Dickens's implicit message of the dangers of eschewing love, light, and connection, no matter one's viewpoint on the holidays and their attendant rituals. Let your love light shine, baby, all year round. It's the best hope for all of us. $29.$70. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 1 p.m. Thursday; Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis; 612.377.2224. Through December 31

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