THE TRIAL OF EBENEZER SCROOGEby Mark Brown
The Core Theatre
Arianna Cinello (Mrs. Cratchett, Miss Wainwright, Harriet Dilber)
David Colville (Solomon Rothschild)
Greg Dinsmore (Interpreter)
Gordon Fox (Jacob Marley)
Kameron Emanuel (The Ghost of Christmas Future)
David Keller (Ebenezer Scrooge)
Emma Kroft (The Ghost of Christmas Past)
Miracle Lewis (Fan, Belle)
Tom McKee (Bob Cratchett, Fred Fitzpatrick)
Juliana Stalter (Judge Pearson)
Corinthia Townsend (Bailiff Connelly)
Directed by James Hansen Prince
Stage manager—Greg Dinsmore
Light and Sound Operator—Angel Fernando
Reviewed Performance: 11/27/2022
Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge” turns on the premise, that in the few years since Mr. Scrooge had his terrifying visitations by the ghosts of his old partner, Jacob Marley and subsequently the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, he has once again lost his Christmas spirit. He’s returned to his old Scrooge-y ways and is suing all the ghosts for the pain and suffering he endured that night.
The trial takes place on Christmas Eve, so that the ghosts can make an appearance. They only work the one day a year, you see. The mean-spirited Judge, played with world-weary gruffness by Juliana Stalter, is a miserly, cranky soul herself, who will remove coal from the stove, even though her courtroom is too cold. She’s had more than enough of the courtroom drama brought by the defense lawyer, the overly loquacious Solomon Rothschild. The judge also thinks it’s absurd that Ebenezer Scrooge has chosen to represent himself in the matter, especially when his entire opening argument (after a vast, windy one from Rothschild) is, “Bah, humbug!” She’s free with her negative opinions, and constantly threatens her over-worked but plucky Bailiff Connelly with dismissal.
The trial begins with the Bailiff commanding we “all rise” for the entrance of the judge. This fun bit of inclusion makes the audience part and parcel to the trial. It works well, allowing the actors to break the fourth wall and interact with the audience directly.
Bob Cratchett is first on the stand, explaining his working relationship with Scrooge. Tom McKee does a great job with this role. He may be a lower-class working man, but it’s clear Bob has a good mind and soul as well. McKee’s use of an East London accent, with his hair a bit mussed, pops the character to life instantly. Just a few minutes later, the same actor literally changes his coat onstage, brushes the formerly errant bangs back with an insouciant air, and becomes Scrooge’s wealthy devil-may-care nephew, Fred. McKee’s handling of both roles was excellent, and the idea to have these character changes happen in front of the audience is just one of the deft touches the director has brought to this play.
Miracle Lewis also uses an on-stage costume change with her dual roles of Fan and Belle. Lewis does a fine job of portraying two quite different people, not only with her vocal patterns but her body language as well. It was touching to see her emotions shift as Belle during her time onstage, especially when Ebenezer reveals a long-held confession.
Arianna Cinello is the third person who plays multiple roles in this production. Cinello is a wonderful character actress and seems to be having a ball as she switches from the rightfully angry Mrs. Cratchett to the vapid, simpering society do-gooder, Miss Wainwright, to a slimy slattern who stole Ebenezer’s nightgown off of his recently deceased body. Her confusion over the word “pilfer” is one of the comedy highlights of this show.
Gordon Fox flat-out steals his scenes as the “he was dead, to begin with,” ghost of Marley. His piteous moans and chain rattling combined with sweet befuddlement are both hilarious and delightful. Fox uses every angle of his body to make his points, creating a physical comedy masterpiece from a role that didn’t require it. His acting choices are uniformly excellent and funny.
Emma Croft is making her stage debut as the Ghost of Christmas Past. She does a good job acting and reacting to the various complaints Ebenezer has about her treatment of him during their outing. Dressed in funky steampunk, she is by turns belligerent and righteous. You’d never know this actress is only ten years old. Croft has a solid stage presence and the maturity to stay in character.
The Ghost of Christmas Past has one of the best entrances ever conceived by a director. I won’t spoil it for you. Kameron Emanuel is hilarious as the verbalizing (but non-speaking) Ghost of Christmas Future. You’ll cry from laughing at his well-timed antics. His partner on the stand, translating his verbalizations into words as the Interpreter, Greg Dinsmore, also has excellent comedic timing with his interjections. I’m still chuckling over their teamwork. Bailiff Connelly, performed by Corinthia Townsend, is the busiest person on the stage. From a tuneful prepping of the courtroom at the top of the show to managing the audience to wrestling with various apparitions, Townsend is up for the task. I found my eyes drawn to her as she reacted to the wacky events. Her inner monologue as she struggled to keep her opinions to herself was spot on. Townsend also brought a sweet innocence, a sort of mirror of Bob Cratchett, to the piece. Her simple delight in getting a whole day off at Christmas is both heartwarming and poignant.
David Colville does the verbal heavy lifting in this show, with long monologues setting the stage and introducing the characters as the defense attorney Solomon Rothschild. To his credit, what could be just windy filler is both entertaining and interesting. Colville knows how to roll a long sentence off without a hitch. He has some well-done dramatic moments too. His care for the other actors onstage, whether it was helping them into a costume, or being the perfect foil to banter, is top-notch. Colville is a pro.
David Keller plays the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge with depth and deftness and well-grown muttonchops. His choices are uniformly excellent. His is a nuanced performance, much of it reactionary to the trial. I appreciated the tender moments Keller found as Scrooge, such as when he is remembering friends from his childhood, or when he is cross-examining the love of his life, Belle on the stand. Keller is wonderful in this role and a generous performer. He allows the other actors to shine when it is their time, and you know you’re in good hands when he takes command.
Hats off to director James Hansen Prince, who is also the artistic director of The Core theatre. You can always tell when an experienced director is at the helm. There is a cohesion to the vision onstage that is purposefully subtle. His production is innovative, surprising, and clever in all the right ways. The devil is in the details, as they say, and Prince’s direction doesn’t miss a trick. Great pacing, good stage movement, actors of all experience levels doing their best, and the material well-served. Prince has taken an already funny script (especially if you are familiar with Dicken’s source material) and made it soar.
Costumes by Macie Thorson are another big reason this production succeeds. Her take on Victorian England has a fun edge, and the costume choices go a long way to helping define each character. I loved the bright red vest of Solomon Rothschild as opposed to the sedate, spare coat Ebenezer wears. The rags and fingerless gloves of Harriet Dilber, the sumptuous hats, and gorgeous gowns with petticoats on Miss Wainwright, Fan, and Belle are a delight. She even found the perfect powdered wig for Judge Pearson. Marley’s chains and outfit are as much a part of the fun as the actor’s delivery of his lines. And as for what the Ghost of Christmas Future wears… well, again, I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s great.
Sound and lights also play a huge part in this show. Angel Fernando was on top of every cue, and there are a lot of them. There is timing needed in a show like this, and he’s got it.
I highly recommend this play. You’ll laugh a lot. You’ll feel good coming out of the theatre. You’ll take home the message that’s embedded in the play about keeping Christmas all the year through. Take a friend, bring the family, and let your heart glow.
The production runs through December 18th, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, and Saturdays 10th and 17th at 3 pm. Special New Year’s Eve show at 8 pm with a party after the show.
Tickets at: www.thecoretheatre.org
The Core Theatre is located at 518 W. Arapaho Road, Ste 115 in Richardson, TX 75080
214.930.5338 / firstname.lastname@example.org