By Marcina Zaccaria
Chains rattling in your ears? Ghosts flying from the rafters? If you’re aching to consult old colleagues to figure a better future, or are just hoping to gain some inspiration after a blast from the past, A Christmas Carol is for you.
This classic, presented by Origin Theatre Company, takes place in the townhouse of Geraldine Page and Rip Torn. The Hollywood stars, known for their work in such films as Sweet Bird of Youth and Cross Creek, have left their townhouse to their son, Tony Torn. Theater goers often enjoy traveling to Newport, Rhode Island to see the mansions of the rich and famous, and witness re-imagined works from the mid-1800s. In this intimate parlor in the larger gem of a townhouse in Chelsea, seeing A Christmas Carol is everywhere near as appealing.
While we’re so accustomed to a large ensemble cast for this Charles Dickens classic, Origin has dreamed up something new. With only one performer playing all roles and a three person chorus singing carols at the beginning, this classic tale has charm and wit. The roles are portrayed by Opera Singer, Elmore James. He was featured in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess. He has appeared in Broadway productions, and received the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Excellence in the Arts, presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
The result is a lovely recitation of a holiday classic. It is full of theme, and rich with perfectly executed text. While only a few moments contain song, most the performance is a recitation, using different areas of the living room. Whether appearing in a large window with red cascading drapes, or sitting in a chair next to a plump Christmas tree, decorated generously with gold bows, Elmore James holds his space, utilizing his full range. Director Erwin Maas has made certain that the depth of the text is understood throughout the entire play, from Jacob Marley’s warning, through visitations from the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to the Come, to Scrooge’s relief after hearing Tiny Tim Cratchit proclaim “Ghost Bless Us Everyone.”
With light bells and rippling winds, the story rattles back before racing forward. It is underscored perfectly with Sound Design by Sam LaFrage. The sound is so potent, we can almost begin to feel the ghosts. Elmore James has exactly solved the problem of how to fill the empty space. His presence is almost towering, yet his great joy of performing the spoken word text (amidst the broody thematic material) was seen and heard.
Origin Theatre Company is known for producing plays in America by European artists. Traveling to see this performance of a Charles Dickens classic was a memorable holiday journey. Here’s to Origin Theatre Company, for also providing mulled wine and minced pie, a delightful addition to a surprisingly inventive hour of theater.
A Christmas Carol taking place in the Chelsea townhouse and theater space, Torn Page, located at 435 West 22nd Street, from Thursday November 30 to Friday December 15. All shows at 8pm. Tickets are $65 (includes wine and holiday treats during 7:30pm pre-show).
For tickets call 866-811-4111 or visit www.origintheatre.org.