11:30 a.m., Dec. 11)
Dickens of a Christmas' a heckuva great play
By Fred Sherwin
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.
the past 12 years, I've probably seen "A Christmas Carol" a half dozen
times in every different variation and adaptation -- until this week.
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.
Dickens of a Christmas" is an incredibly original twist on the Victorian
tale, that is set in Cumberland.
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.
"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.
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?
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.
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.
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
surmizes that the couple's long ago separation is the root cause of Mr. Scroggs'
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.
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.
quickly transforms from a detestable curmudgeon into a gregarious and ll is right
with the world.
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.
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.
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.
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, Sept. 1611 and a special matinee
performance at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 101 .
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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