- A Christmas Carol
- By Charles Dickens, adapted by Nathan Weinberger
- Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili and Dan Istrate
- Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
- Produced by Synetic Theater
- Reviewed by Gary McMillan
Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh with the hounds of hell nipping at your heels. Synetic Theater has taken on the Dicken’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, and put its distinctive, ethereal stamp on the tale of the haunting and redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. With its four ghostly visitations on Christmas Eve, the play is a natural for Synetic’s blend of minimalist dialog and visually stunning, creative illusion. It also marks Synetic’s venture into more family-friendly fright, with a smattering of lighthearted humor here and there.
The opening is a bit bogged down with exposition and requires some getting accustomed to the very un-London-like accent of Irakli Kavsadze as Ebenezer Scrooge. But Kavsadze makes for an aptly exasperated, irascible curmudgeon, if not quite a cuddly curmudgeon as when he’s threatening a caroling beggar woman with a lead pipe or recommends the “surplus population” to the almshouse, prison, or the grave.
The bleak, dark set, with dim ceiling-suspended light bulbs in varying sizes and pale yellow-orange hues, provides a somber tone. Steamer trunks, alone or stacked high, are reconfigured throughout the show as furniture, with a tall sturdy chair poised high above the stage to serve as Scrooges aerie where he can watch hawk-like over his employees. The ever present London fog swirls and curls about the stage and completes the eerie atmosphere required.
The first of four wraiths, Dan Istrate as the Scrooge’s late business partner, Jacob Marley, is doomed to walk the earth burdened by a length of chain for each sin of omission while on earth. He comes to warn his friend lest his heartlessness too lead to the same tragic fate, and foretells of three more visitations to come. With yards of flowing fabric, long heavy chains, stunning light effects and the team of actors’ sinuous movements, Marley and his entourage of fellow-traveling shades transport the audience into the realm of the supernatural.
The Greek chorus of messenger spirits – Regina Aquino (Christmas Past), Niki Jacobsen (Christmas Present) and Irana Kavsadze (Christmas Future) – guide the reluctant, protesting Scrooge on a journey of self discovery. And spirit guides they are, seeming to hover just above the floor or quiver on each passing breeze. The costumes (by Anastasia Ryurikov Simes) are ice blue and fire red and ashen as death itself: three corpse brides of Christmas bearing Scrooge to his destinations.
Among the masterful illusions are a frantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of London to the Cratchit house; Scrooge, borne on spirit wings, soaring over rooftops to be tumbled down to ground back in his rooms; and a macabre, surreal attack of living tombstones thronged around Scrooge’s own graveyard monument. On a more naturalistic note: a scene in which Scrooge must watch scavenging thieves pick clean his bed chamber and his body.
A Christmas Carol is Dicken’s “Scared Straight” rehabilitation program for delinquent misers. Beneath the entertainment is his message of social and economic responsibilities as they apply to wealth and power: to whom much has been given … The message is a little heavy handed, to be sure, but remains a refreshing antidote to “compassionate conservatism.”
After the last visitation, the story comes to a hasty summing up. One of the most delightful moments is when Scrooge realizes he’s been given a second chance. Kavsadze is giddy with joyous and boyish glee. The resulting audience laughter brings a welcome relief to the tension. No longer chained to the lingering remnants of a dour youth, Scrooge is poised to embrace his remaining days with childlike wonder and bonhomie.
This production did not astonish me as much as other Synetic productions have, but it is a memorable interpretation of this classic holiday treasure.
- Running time: 1:05 minutes with no intermission
- When: thru Dec 23rd
- Where: Rosslyn Spectrum, 1611 N. Kent Street, Arlington, VA 22209-
- Tickets: $35 on Fridays and Saturdays, $30 on Thursdays and Sundays, $5 off for seniors (65+) and $20 for students for Friday and Saturday, $15 for students on Thursday and Sunday.
- Info: Synetic box office at 703-824-8060, or visit their website.
Is this a show children will enjoy? Read our Kids Stages review here.
Bob Morrison says
I enjoyed the energy and skill of the performers, especially Iraki Kavsadze, who combined expression, dance and mime into a knockout performance, and Miles Butler who delivered a far more nuanced character than you would believe from a 15-year-old actor. “If you only go to one holiday show, make it this one,” I’m telling my friends.
Natasha Lomashvili says
Hi my name is Natasha and i am 12 years old.I am Irina Kavsadzes friend and i loved the way she performed. I loved the way everybody performed but i did not know anyone else exept Irina adn his awesome dad. Anyways i loved the show, i went to the premeer and if it was so great other shows will be even better, but that is not possible because it was the BEST. ok so keep up the good work.