Volume 10 Week 10

Tuesday, Nov. 101


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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette





(Posted 11:30 a.m., Dec. 11)

'A Dickens of a Christmas' a heckuva great play
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Quick, if I was to ask you what is the most popular Christmas play, your immediate answer would likely by "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, or it would be a very close second.

During the past 12 years, I've probably seen "A Christmas Carol" a half dozen times in every different variation and adaptation -- until this week.

This week I had the pleasure of seeing Vintage Stock Theatre's production of "A Dickens of a Christmas" written by former Vintage Stock Theatre president and veteran playwrite Susan Flemming.

"A Dickens of a Christmas" is an incredibly original twist on the Victorian tale, that is set in Cumberland.

According to the history books, a young Charles Dickens traveled across North America in 1842, the year before "A Christmas Carol" was published, and stopped briefly in Montreal.

In "A Dickens of a Christmas", Flemming imagines the writer stayed briefly at an inn near Cumberland on his way to Montreal to take shelter from a snow storm and it was at the inn that he drew inspiration for his famous novella.

The main character in the play is the innkeeper Mr. Scroggs, a miserly, contemptable old man who wants nothing more than to be left to his own affairs. Sound familiar? It should.

Mr. Critchley is Scroggs servant. Despite being over-worked and under-paid, the manager of the inn feels sorry for his boss and often defends him. Mr. Critchley also has a young son who just happens to have a terminal illness.

Now you see where we are going with this thing, Very early on in the play Mr. Scroggs pulls out a letter. As he reads it, he becomes visibly upset, crumples up the paper and then tries to through it in the fireplace. It hists the surrounding brick and then falls to the floor where Dickins finds it.

The letter is from Scroggs former fiancée Isabel, she is dying and wants to wish some parting words on him. She references Scroggs lust for wealth which caused their separation years earlier, and bbeseeches him to change his ways before it's too late.

Dickens surmizes that the couple's long ago separation is the root cause of Mr. Scroggs' ill temper.

He begins to write a play for a troupe of actors who have also sought refuge in the inn. As they rehearse through the night, they are interupted occasionally by Mr. Scroggs who mistakes some of the members as old friends. After a couple of episodes he becomes confused and can't decide whether he's dreaming or fully awake.

During the last of his reprises, he observes a scene in which the characters make fun of a curmudgeonly old man in the play. Believing that they are makign fun of him, Scroggs flies into a rage and kicks everyone out of the inn. But before they leave, he has an epiphany after Dickens shows him the letter that he had early tried to through away.

Scroggs quickly transforms from a detestable curmudgeon into a gregarious and ll is right with the world.

The joy of watching "A Dickens of a Christms", besides the many great performances, lies in looking for the little similarities between the play and "A Christmas Carol", whether they be in the situations or the dialogue.

As for the cast, they were all brilliant starting with Paul Rainville, a professional actor, who donated his time and talent to the production as a guest artist. Local stage veterans Samantha LeClair, formerly Sam Stephens, and Hayden Smith delivered their finest performances in recent memory as the lead of the visiting stage troupe and Charles Dickens.

Susan Flemming took on the roll of Scroggs cleaning lady.Mrs. Lulu Tribble. Olivia Best plays Molly, another one of Scorggs servants who has a crsuch on Dickens. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Ian MacGregor who plays Mr. Critchley; Alex McGregor, who plays Charlie, Rebecca Lebel as Charley's sister Tawnsey; Gordan Watts as Kevin; Andre Lacasse as Victor and Sarah Benfield as Bridget.

"A Dickens of a Christmas" continues at the Shenkman Arts Centre for two more performances at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23611 and a special matinee performance at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 101 .

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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