A Dickens Carol | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Dickens Carol


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A DICKENS CAROL, Act Now Productions, at Turn Around Theatre. Dickens's hardy classic gets the improv treatment, in a staging by Marshall Crawford and Pepper Stebbins, with results that range from sidesplitting to semistupid. The occasion is an 1851 reading of A Christmas Carol at Dickens's home, spiced up with audience suggestions in nine areas (pet peeves, freak accidents, hidden secrets, faux pas), some 50 items to be forced into the story. (Of course most weren't used, so why request this many?)

Not surprisingly, the humor often erupts when these sometimes lame, sometimes sharp anachronistic suggestions turn up. Scrooge's nephew gives him a mood ring that's black for so long Scrooge thinks it's broken. In deep denial of Tiny Tim's handicap, Bob Cratchit keeps howling, "It's not my fault." Played by four sheeted actors, Marley (who died from too much sex) wails "Working on the Chain Gang."

Other pungent variations: The Ghost of Christmas Past is a biker chick with attitude and a GATT tattoo on her shoulder. Tiny Tim gets high like the rest of his dysfunctional clan, then is killed by an exploding present. Scrooge's gift to the needy Cratchits is a package of dental floss as big as Tiny Tim. The newly reformed Scrooge's tolerance is tested hard when he discovers that his nephew's beloved is a man.

Much of this works, thanks to an eight-member cast who listen as often as they quip. Crawford's Scrooge deserves special credit for always staying in delightfully dotty character.

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