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Redeemed: Ron Komora as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Second Chance

By James Yeara

A Christmas Carol

Adapted from Charles Dickens by Amlin Gray, directed by David Baecker

New York State TheatrE Institute, through Dec. 10

The heart of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic A Christmas Carol is the scene where Ebenezer Scrooge confronts his own gravestone. The black-robed Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come towers over Scrooge, pointing with a finality at the terrible writing that Scrooge can’t whine, yell, threat, growl, wheedle, deal, or squirm away from. That Scrooge has already shown that he has been changed by the Ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, and Christmas Present seemingly makes the graveyard shock superfluous. Yet Dickens writes this vital scene with what would be a Bergman cinematic clarity, a mix of close-ups, mental interiors, and that stark graveyard.

Scrooge has to totally abandon his capitalist way of business; he cannot lie, bribe, deny his way out this, and only his pleading and swearing to lead an alter life, not just in words but in deeds brings on his final chance at redemption. It’s a wonderful moment of humility and honesty that highlights all the wonderful moments in A Christmas Carol.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. . . . Spirit hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been. . . . Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” Scrooge pleads at the end of the scene, earning his chance at redemption. Without it, the stone stays etched.

In the New York State Theatre Institute’s current production of Amlin Gray’s adaptation (done twice at NYSTI more than 20 years ago), the action is totally in Scrooge’s (Ron Komora) counting house on a raised wagon center stage. Turnstiles stage left and stage right shift between the exterior facades of Victorian buildings and the bare wall interiors. Into (or through the floor of) the counting house come Bob Cratchit (Timothy Hull) and the very tall, tattered-robe-wearing Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (also Hull), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Joe Quandt), wearing a white Dee Snyder wig and speaking in a Jamaican accent, the Ghost of Jacob Marley (through the floor in a variation of the white Dee Snyder wig), Old Fezziwig (John Romeo), the Ghost of Christmas Past (Shannon Rafferty) wearing a Billy Idol wig and speaking in a German accent, and assorted others, including a passel of children who play the passel of Cratchit kids, young Scrooges, and assorted Victorian chattel, some Dickens’ creation, some Dickensian through Amlin Gray’s adapting.

A jolt of life comes from the stage whenever some of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is heard or acted in this adaptation, and it’s a delight to hear it. In this possibly final production in NYSTI’s 35-year history, much of what made NYSTI such a singular children’s theater troupe is on display. As Jacob Marley states, “Look to see me no more, and look that, for your own good, you remember what has past between us.” NYSTI, like Ebenezer Scrooge, will long be remembered.


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