Bar Humbug - A Dickens of a 'Trial' at Taproot
By Nancy Worssam
Every year about this time, old Ebenezer Scrooge drops by to dampen our Christmas spirits. I'm here to tell you that he's back yet again. But this year, that crusty old curmudgeon has had the audacity to bring charges against Marley and the Christmas ghosts, those well-meaning individuals who showed him the error of his ways and brought joy into his heart.The crotchety old man is here to participate in a trial that is being held at Taproot Theatre.
Audience members sit as spectators in the courtroom as Judge Steve Manning presides over this somewhat out-of-control hearing. Scrooge, played ably by Nolan Palmer, represents himself with muttered asides, antagonistic postures and unacceptable outbursts. Solomon Rothschild, lawyer for the accused, is a gentleman through and through. Those against whom Scrooge has brought charges of kidnapping, assault and battery are well served by Rothschild as played by Kevin Brady. He is both gracious and friendly and treats all witnesses with respect. His conduct is in sharp contrast to that of the unpleasant Mr. Scrooge.One after another, the witnesses are brought forward. First, of course, is Bob Cratchit, a modest Mr. Peepers sort of guy who, though overworked and underpaid by the firm of Marley & Scrooge, doesn't complain. He tells the truth about his boss, and that is damning enough. Cratchit has been living on a salary of 15 shillings a week for 10 years, no raises, no opportunity to become a partner in the firm. Somehow, he's supporting a family of six children on that paltry sum. More damning evidence against Scrooge comes from his nephew, who every year invited Uncle Ebenezer to Christmas festivities only to be greeted by a dismissive "Bah! Humbug!" When Marley and the Christmas spirits testify, they make it clear that their visit to Scrooge last year was motivated by the best of intentions. They were only trying to save the man from himself.One would think that there's nothing in this case to favor Ebenezer Scrooge. Yet other witnesses attest to his sad childhood and forlorn love life with such fervor that the old man is reduced to tears. Maybe there's a reason for his penurious and mean ways. You'll have to attend the trial to find out whether Scrooge is successful in his lawsuit. I will, however, tell you that it's a disorderly courtroom, which eventually turns into a cacophonous melee. The bailiff is a buffoon. The witnesses can be quite unruly. One of them doesn't even show up. Others arrive with clanking, howling, flashing lights, or puffs of smoke.Although the play itself is only modestly funny and in need of a little tightening, director Scott Nolte has pulled out all the stops to turn it into a festive seasonal frolic suitable for the whole family (except for really tiny tots). He's assembled a clever company, which makes it all work.In a cast of good actors, the standout is Lindsay Christianson. As the Ghost of Christmas Past she's a winsome coquette. She also plays a sweet, naïve sister and a gracious lady. She's terrific in each role. Keep your eye out for this young lady, who's a senior in the University of Washington School of Drama and an intern at Taproot. She has the makings of a rising star. Sarah Jane Burch's costumes are charming evocations of 19th-century England. Men wear caped cloaks and long scarves, top hats and spats. The women carry furry muffs and wear poke bonnets and voluminous skirts. Mark Lund transforms the theater successfully into an English courtroom. His sound design and Jody Briggs' lighting work well in replicating the harsh brightness of a municipal building and then transforming the scene to create the creepy atmosphere needed for the apparitions of the ghost of Christmas Future and the dead Mr. Marley.This is not the traditional "Christmas Carol," but it's a refreshing take on an old standard. And it certainly captures the essence of the Dickens' story: the spirit of Christmas is about caring and generosity, and it should be in our hearts all year long.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Another review mentioning Sarah's work.