Kansas City Repertory Theatres annual production of A Christmas Carol runs like a reliable machine, delivering laughs, chills and lumps in the throat precisely when we expect them.
By ROBERT TRUSSELL
The Kansas City Star
We refers to theatergoers who have attended the show regularly through the years.
This is the third edition directed by Kyle Hatley, the Reps associate artistic director, and hes refined the show to the point that it holds our interest despite its inability to produce many surprises. He approaches it as serious theater and strikes a balance between the materials inherent sentimentality and its depiction of the human cost of raw capitalism.
The core players, admirable actors all, have been closely associated with the show in recent years, if not decades Gary Neal Johnson as Scrooge; Walter Coppage as Bob Cratchit, Mark Robbins as Jacob Marleys ghost; Katie Kalahurka as the Ghost of Christmas Present; Rusty Sneary as Fred and Young Scrooge; Cheryl Weaver as Mrs. Cratchit; Jim Gall as both Mr. Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Present; Peggy Friesen as Mrs. Fezziwig; Vanessa Severo as Belle; and Charles Fugate as narrator Charles Dickens.
These performers are clearly comfortable in their roles, but theres nothing perfunctory about the performances. Indeed, the actors are so committed that the show still packs a punch, even if youve seen it again and again. And again.
The curious thing about this adaptation (written by Barbara Field) is the way it can legitimately be viewed in different ways. People looking for light holiday entertainment can take it as that and nothing more. But on a deeper level its an implicitly religious tale of one mans redemption. Old Ebenezer Scrooge is essentially born again after he has the bejesus scared out of him by visiting nocturnal ghosts and is transformed from an unapologetic member of the 1 percent to a philanthropist who cant wait to give his money away. In other words, he buys his salvation
And that ties into the plays political sentiment. Its depiction of 19th-century economic realities grim working conditions, child labor, an absence of social safety nets cant help but resonate with anyone whos been kicked out of a job or cant afford decent health care.
But if political questions make you break out in hives (and who can blame you?) viewers can easily disregard that aspect of the script, because on its most basic level the play is about love. It depicts personal love Scrooges adoration of his sister, his heart-hardening rejection by Belle, his post-conversion embrace of his nephew Fred but also love of humanity. The basic question it poses is this: If we are not here to help fellow members of the human race, then whats the point of living?
But, as I say, none of that will matter to theatergoers in search of comforting, ideologically neutral entertainment. The Rep dishes up a handsomely mounted production John Ezells rotating set is as impressive as ever full of good performances. You cant ask for much more than that.
To reach Robert Trussell, theater critic, call 816-234-4765 or send email to email@example.com.