There are multiple productions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” currently playing in Chicago and a bevy of film adaptations will surely broadcast on TV during the next few weeks. If you’re tired of the same-old same-old, yet can’t fathom a Christmas without a carol (so to speak) check out Blake Montgomery’s charming one-man show “Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs ‘A Christmas Carol’ Again” at The Building Stage.
In a cozy theater setting, with its simple chandeliers, luscious curtains, and twinkling, fully decorated Christmas tree, Charles Dickens (the vibrant Montgomery) welcomes audience members with tea and biscuits. Then for a long first thirty minutes, Mr. Dickens argues repetitively against the banality of tradition and explains that he would like to do something different this year. Instead of reading from his beloved book “A Christmas Carol” for the 160th year in a row, Charles wants to throw a Christmas party. Sadly, the audience won’t mingle and the theater’s “spirits” keep dimming the house lights and firing up the spotlight until Charles has no choice but to perform his famous holiday ghost story about Scrooge, a miserly man learning lessons on love and generosity.
Once Scrooge’s story starts, Montgomery flexes his strong storytelling and acting muscles as he narrates and plays each character in the Christmas tale. He punctuates the narrative with a large amount of physical humor, literary references and audience interaction for a multi-layered and unpredictable show. True it feels fresh but at times rather frenetic; the script tosses the focus from Dickens to Scrooge so quickly that it’s hard to care about either as deeply as one would like. Yet I began to care very much about Montgomery himself and I appreciate his ambition, his craft, and his vivacious spirit. I just wish he had maybe cut the initial fifteen minutes.