by: Marcina Zaccaria
Blessed Unrest proudly presents a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” adapted by Matt Opatny, and directed and choreographed by Jessica Burr.
Representative of some of the best of avant-garde theater today, this adaptation of the Christmas Carol is clever. The choreography is elegant. As the moments shape shift, the company is never paralyzed or static. They embrace circus skills, commedia dell’arte, and modern dance. Off-stage characters frame the scene before joining the action onstage. Feats of balance are seen, including stilt-walking. Jubilant dance sequences follow sincere, more conversational scenes.
The script, by Matt Opatny, draws heavily from the original story of Charles Dickens. Although it is a winding journey, the production never loses sight of the original novel. In 1843, Charles Dickens planned to publish a political pamphlet entitled “An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child,” but instead wrote “A Christmas Carol.” This adaptation returns to the story’s original intent as an examination of an unjust socioeconomic system that benefits a few at the top while the masses struggle to meet their basic needs.
Economic hardship and the harsh winter are profoundly seen. Careful attention is paid to the portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Damen Scanton (Ebenezer Scrooge) shivers from the outdoors as he runs up and down imaginary stairs and around doors. As the play progresses, he feels uncommon strife and suffers from extraordinary sleeplessness. At the end of the play, he is woken from fever dream to find possibilities for greater fulfillment of his soul.
The supporting cast includes Sora Baek, Jessi Blue Gormezano, Tatyana Kot, Nathan Richard Wagner, and Joshua Wynter. They are a brilliant ensemble, and they lead the audience moment by moment through Scrooge’s dark journey.
Set design by Neal Wilkinson is innovative. Trunks are used as both suitcases and chairs. Doors glide across the stage, are turned on their sides by cast members, and decorated in a party scene. Costume design by Summer Lee Jack is layered and detailed. Brimmed hats and coats with tails evoke England of the 1800s. Fabrics are detailed and textured and show the wear and tear of the times. Lighting design by Cynthia Jankowsky is clear and subtle. Parts of the stage brighten to reveal moments of discovery.
At the end of the play, Scrooge finds himself alone in space. A survivor after a storm, he gasps for air as he attempts to comprehend everything he has experienced.
Blessed Unrest (theatre for the adventurous) uses the safe structure of training, rehearsal and performance to create an environment where dangerous things can happen. They produce dynamic, disciplined and exuberant new works for the stage in New York City and abroad, building original pieces and reconstructing established texts with their diverse ensemble of artists. They are in residence at the Interart Theatre. They believe that artistic collaboration has the power to break down cultural barriers and build international bridges.
*Photos: Alan Roche
“A Christmas Carol” runs from December 5 – 22 (opens Dec 7) at The Interart Theatre (500 West 52 St) in NYC. For more information, visit tickets, please visit http://www.BlessedUnrest.org.