Monday, December 20, 2010

Brilliant! David Zen Mansley & Charles Dickens’ - A Christmas Carol:

A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens’
Adapted for the stage by David Zen Mansley
Directed, Produced and Designed by David Zen Mansley
Presented by Crystal Field and Theater for the New City

Many people tend to avoid Christmas and Holiday shows because of the quality of the shows and/or seasonal reasons. But when I saw the cast of A Christmas Carol at Theater for the New City, I did not want to miss this. You have David Zen Mansley a wonderful actor, Mark Marcante known for building sets at TNC, directing and his love of Commedia dell’Arte. Then a surprise actress not known for her acting but she should be, or known for appearing at Theater for the New City but who is known for her excellent clown, buffoon and creative work, Audrey Crabtree. To top off reasons not to miss it was the addition of Crystal Field to the cast.

This show only ran one week - next year I would hope TNC runs it for a month. David Zen Mansley casting was excellent, using almost all TNC in house talent but also bringing in the very talented Audrey Crabtree, a very wise and effective choice.

David Zen Mansley’s, Scrooge took us into his world of stingy, greedy, cold inhuman treatment of his fellow man – but also took us into Scrooge’s own personal hell he was living with, from his lonely cold childhood, being blamed by his father for the death of his mother at child birth, to the later death of his sister and more. Once you felt David Zen Mansley could not possibly take us any deeper or lower into hell – he managed to takes us further and deeper into the darkness of the sufferings, which haunts Scrooge and made him into the cold creator of other peoples hell. Bob Homeyer plays a wonderful Bob Cratchit – the timid clerk. It was a good counter balance to David Zen Mansley’s, Scrooge. Bob Homeyer, Cratchit gave a perfect sense of living on the edge of survival for him and his family being so poor, because of Scrooges miserliness and the two of them brought a sense of those suffering times of Charles Dickens’.

Bob Cratchit going home for Christmas dinner is a priceless scene – Mrs. Cratchit played brilliantly by Audrey Crabtree – bringing a deeper balance of a strong woman that loves her children and husband, a perfect mother. When Mrs. Cratchit walked on stage, you knew this was her loving home. Audrey Crabtree turns a cherished day in a starvation situation bright. At the same time brings a sense of suffering because of greed and has the spine to say so. Serving Christmas dinner with no food what-so-ever but the whole family eating a complete dinner with every detail all with “mime food” because there was no money to buy real food – with the whole family truly enjoying it was funny, tragic and heart breaking. The two Cratchit children Katherine Santangelo as big sister Martha Cratchit and Briannna Bartenieff as Tiny Tim played along perfectly with their mom and dad joyfully eating nothing and enjoying it. It was all so hearts breaking that more than several people in the audience were brought to quiet tears. Several women in the audience as they were exiting the theater after the show, said how they could not help but cry during a few of the family scenes. The men in the audience did not talk about the tears. What made the moment so great was the setup by David Zen Mansley the adaptor and director of this piece.

Michael Laporta, the Solicitor was on the mark as the hopeful community person collecting funds for charity, showing the horror and loss of not helping humanity and driving Scrooges wrath deeper as did Justin Wisniewski - Nephew Fred the nauseatingly happy son of Scrooge’s sister. The multi-media film was effetely done with Caitlyn Williams as Christmas Past playing a very kind loving ghost. Mark Marcante – Fezziwig ghost drove Scrooge to dance with joy, again a nice touch of playing joy and hell at the same time. Susie Perkins – Sister Fan to Scrooge was yet another very touching moment where we all received a deeper sense of why Scrooge became Scrooge. Luke Robishaw and Caitlyn Willams played Debtor Husband and Wife to Scrooge in a scene that could be taking place in today’s time by today’s cold Scrooge bankers, management companies and landlords. Candice Burridge – Belle, Scrooge’s lost love brought out the possible love of this Scrooge making him very human all this showing all the scabs on Scrooges poor soul. David F. Slone, Esq – Christmas Present ghost helped in the torture of Scrooge. Bob Homeyer also played Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come with great movement on film – turning Scrooges final breaking point.

As part of all the ghost scenes into the future of the unchanged Scrooge was a brilliant three some of Michael Laporta – Old Joe, Crystal Field – Mrs Dilbur and Lissa Moira – the Laundress. Lissa and Crystal were brilliant in the roles of thieves making off with the possible dead Scrooge’s belongings. Having seen Crystal in a few times, this is one of her best characters I have seen her perform. All three play these wonderful characters beautifully. And the scene with Crystal and David, Mrs. Dilbur and the changed Scrooge was touchingly funny bringing joy to everyone.

This show drives ones emotion and once you think you have gone all the way David Zen Mansley bring you deeper into joy with his directing, staging and casting. Scrooge, coming in disguised as Santa was a perfect transition to help us and Scrooge’s surprise visit to the home of Bob and Mrs. Cratchit to give them food and joy. The lovely Tiny Tim Cratchit was the brave one of the family that would have none of this non-sense of hiding behind a false bearded Santa. Ripping away Santa’s false garments to reveal the changed Scrooge. The joy of giving – sharing – helping comes through this wonderful piece. Charles Dickens’ would be extremely proud of this production.

Knowing this was a very tight budgeted shows the simple set by Dave Zen Mansley worked well, light by William Giraldo and Sound Design by Joy Linscheid was excellent.

CAST: (in order of appearance)
David Zen Mansley - Scrooge
Bob Homeyer - Bob Cratchit
Justin Wisniewski - Nephew Fred
Michael Laporta – the Solicitor
David Zen Mansley – Jacob Marley
Caitlyn Williams – Christmas Past
Mark Marcante - Fezziwig
Susie Perkins – Sister Fan
Luke Robishaw – Debtor Husband (Belle flashback)
Caitlyn Williams - Debtor Wife (Belle flashback)
Candice Burridge - Belle (Scrooge's lost love)
David F. Slone, Esq. – Christmas Present
Audrey Crabtree – Mrs. Cratchit
Katherine Santangelo – Martha Cratchit
Brianna Bartenieff as Tiny Tim
Bob Homeyer - Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (Death)
Michael Laporta – Old Joe
Crystal Field – Mrs. Dilbur
Lissa Moira – the Laundress

Light Design by William Giraldo
Sound Design by Joy Linscheid

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