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BWW Review: IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER: A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR OUR TIME Delivers the Hopeful Christmas Story We Knew We Needed

Dallas Theater Company Delivers IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER: A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR OUR TIME in the Best Possible Way

BWW Review: IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER: A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR OUR TIME Delivers the Hopeful Christmas Story We Knew We Needed

I think it's safe to admit that 2020 has us all feeling a bit Scrooge-y, but that doesn't mean this year is beyond hope. In the Bleak Midwinter: A Christmas Carol for our Time takes the audience on a reflective journey through the life of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man initially known for his gloom and eventually celebrated for his generosity.

The action begins in the present as Ebenezer Scrooge, played by the talented Blake Hackler, lays comatose in a hospital bed on Christmas Eve. He is visited by his past fiancé, kind hearted Belle, played by Tiffany Solano, who is there to wish him well. She is the first of many catalysts whom Scrooge encounters throughout the play.

After Belle leaves the hospital room, it seems as if Ebenezer Scrooge has awakened from his coma, but when the honest, hilarious nurse, played by Liz Mikel, announces him as a candy striper, it becomes abundantly clear-Ebenezer Scrooge is no longer alive. Aligning with the craft moves of Charles Dickens, the play continues as Scrooge is forced to face the truths of his past, present, and future.

We are able to see true happiness on the face of Scrooge when he reverts to his past and encounters his beloved boss, Mrs. Fezziwig, played by the joyous Sally Nystuen Vahle. That happiness is immediately wiped away when he pleads to see his current assistant, Emily, played by Molly Searcy, and is transported to her home to find out that one of her children is frighteningly ill. During his journey through time, Scrooge relives moments of pure passion and terrible trauma, compelling him to yearn for a second chance.

Toward the end of the performance, Scrooge is revisited by his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who is now hooded and wrapped in chains. Jacob Marley, played by witty and ominous Alex Organ, cautions Scrooge, "so hallowed and so gracious is the time." Scrooge's niece, Lucy, played by the charming Tiana Kaye Blair, appears on stage to sing a sorrowful, yet hopeful rendition of "In the Bleak Midwinter" as she is drenched in blue light. This powerful performance jolts Ebenezer Scrooge awake in his hospital bed, allowing him the chance to take action inspired by the catalysts he encountered while traveling through the past, present, and future. All of the characters he faced start to appear on stage, one-by-one, to share the good deeds done by Ebenezer Scrooge.

A story this classic often comes with unforgiving expectations; in these strange circumstances, Dallas Theater Center met, and possibly exceeded, those expectations.

The 2020 theater experience requires a performance in an empty theater with top-notch videography. The set used for In the Bleak Midwinter: A Christmas Carol for our Time brilliantly lent itself to these circumstances. The sizable screens on stage left and stage right were appropriately changing with the jumps in time. There were images of skyscrapers, a hanging "Fezziwig & Sons" sign, hospital walls, all the way to living room windows. Each image was intentionally selected and presented at the perfect moment. Not only this, but the camera operators, Ray Alva and Jacobi Alvarez, captured only what was necessary during each scene. It was an impressive integration of live performance and virtual production.

Each instance when the characters would jump through time there was an ominous ticking sound that declared a new challenge for Scrooge to face. I found myself craving that brief tick throughout the entire performance. Call me morbid, but I was ready to see Scrooge learn his lesson!

Despite jumping through time and confronting his most important truths, Scrooge remains in his hospital gown until the very end of the play. This served as a constant reminder of where Scrooge was lying in the present-comatose, in a hospital bed, alone, on Christmas Eve. When he finally startles awake with a purpose, he removes the hospital gown, ridding himself of the gloom that has been infecting him, and then clothes himself, signifying his readiness for a new life. This was a beautiful use of costume change.

In the dreadful year that could itself be named Scrooge, Dallas Theater Center delivered the performance we so desperately needed. There is a lesson to be learned from Ebenezer Scrooge's journey, especially in a time like this.

As Scrooge himself says, "mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business." Let's keep this message in mind as we transition to 2021. Give what you can. Shop local. Keep each other safe. Support Dallas Theater Center!


Virtual attendance available through Jan. 2. Rent the performance through the Dallas Theater Center website. Run time: 60 minutes.

Photo Credit: Imani Thomas

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