Endeavoring to raise the ghost of an idea, in true Dickens’ spirit, Dignity Players presents a dramatic reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol just in time for the holidays. Adapted by Lois Evans, Mark Hilderbrand, and Eric Lund, the story is vividly animated to life through this well rehearsed dramatic reading, in its simplest form keeping nearly word for word to the original text; a pure way to enjoy the Christmas classic tale if you’ve never seen a bare-bones production of it before. You can almost close your eyes (don’t, because you’ll miss some incredible facial features occurring) and envision yourself sitting by a roaring fire with a radio play happening right before your ears.
The performing team, consisting of Lois Evans, Mark Hilderbrand, and Eric Lund, take turns narrating the story as well as playing the various characters held within the pages of Dickens’ holiday treat. Lund, with an almost comic approach, is the lone reader to tackle the main character of Ebenezer Scrooge. His pinched vocals and gruff sound lend an air of humbuggery to the character which is perfect for the tight-fisted, nose-to-the-grindstone old skinflint. Lund does, however, make exceptional breaks in emotion when appropriate, tears choking his voice during moments of regret and repentance, and by the end of the performance he’s literally as the words describe him, “merry as a school boy and giddy as a drunken man.” Lund does an exceptional job of embodying this iconic literary giant with just words and vocal inflection.
Evans and Hilderbrand take turns playing the various spirits of Christmas, including Evans’ rousing and bemoaning rendition of Jacob Marley, the man who was dead to begin with. They share the responsibilities of the Cratchit family and Scrooge’s nephew and niece, and give excellent vocal delineation between every character that they speak as. Evans grows quite grave when reciting the Ghost of Christmas Present’s warning about the children of ignorance and want— the children of mankind. But its Hilderbrand’s joviality as the kindly old Fezziwig, and his accent to boot, that keeps the audience in smiles. Hilderbrand’s various accents come into play and are executed with precision, making the story that much more engaging.
It’s the little things that occur throughout the performance that really make it a delightful holiday treat. The way the trio highlights the subtle nuances of humor that are cleverly laced throughout Dickens’ work with a glance of the eye or a turn of the head, giving the audience a look at how humorous the story is in places. And the weight with which they deliver key words, bringing the story back to its basic meaning and lesson; a fine example of a family values hard at work.
If you’ve never experienced the raw purity of A Christmas Carol, or even if you have, this is certainly one to investigate, it may stir some of your very own Christmas ghosts and make the holiday just a little bit more special for you this year.
Running time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 8, 2013 at Dignity Players— Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis— 333 Dubois Road, in Annapolis, MD. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (410) 266-8044 ext. 127 and by purchasing them online.