Review: Olney Theatre Center's A CHRISTMAS CAROL a Joyful Celebration

Paul Morella's One-Man "A Christmas Carol" a Streaming Treat for All

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Annual traditions are impossible to give up, eh? And why should we? Just because we're confined to our homes, doesn't mean we can't re-connect with our favorites, and maybe spot something new in them in the bargain.

Paul Morella's beloved one-man show of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas" has been with us for quite some time, and in the interests of guaranteeing we all get to enjoy his work for many Christmases to come, we will be enjoying it from the comfort of our own homes this year.

Streaming video offerings are in abundance now, as live theatres adapt to the temporary rigors of the virus. Even now, with the end in sight, we will have to spend the winter season glued to our flat-screens, and use video as a reminder of what we have missed, and what we will be able to see live, with any luck, by this time next year.

Morella's work as the adaptor/director/performer in this piece practically needs no introduction, and his comfort with the material enables him to switch characters and voices with ease. From the dizzying chaos of Fezziwig's Christmas party, to the somber atmosphere of the Cratchit home on an ominous (and, thankfully, purely hypothetical) Christmas without Tiny Tim, are all handled with aplomb. It is also wonderful to watch as Morella's Scrooge, aware of his gruff former persona, makes his awkward, remarkably vulnerable way through his first real Christmas celebration in years.

Olney Theatre Center has teamed up with Chiet Productions, whose camera work enables us to experience Morella's wonderful work in entirely new ways. Patrick W. Lord's original design, with the cozy, attic-like assembly of bric-a-brac, can be appreciated better than before; the details which might pass our notice in a live theatre, especially when seen from the back of the house, are brought to our steady gaze here and add immensely to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, Sonya Dowhaluk's lights offer a few surprises, with a dynamism that matches the high spirits of Morella's performance. Edward Moser's sound design is a marvelous mix of ambient sound-from scurrying rats to choirs to, of course, booming bells tolling the hours of Ebeneezer Scrooge's midnight pilgrimages.

Here's hoping that streaming video can now become a part of our local theatre's offerings; it's a cinch that they need more revenue streams than the usual ticket sales, and perhaps productions like this one can point the way forward.

Running Time: 95 minutes, if watched in one sitting. (Longer, of course, if you break for pudding or Steaming Bishop...)

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas is available online through January 3. For access to the VIMEO webcast log into: .


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