REVIEW BY E.M. FREDRIC
Westwood, CA (The Hollywood Times) – 11/11/2018 – I admit, I came with trepidation to sit through another boorish reproduction of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol but was surprised at what new perspective was thrown into all characters of Christmas past, present and future by one Tony Award-winning actor – Jefferson Mays! His whirlwind one-man show breathes new life into Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and the rest amid a stunning visual odyssey.
It is dark, very, very dark and you’re jolted in the first few minutes by screams followed by laughter as the introduction gives you a glimpse of the sphere you’re about to behold. The world premiere of Jefferson Mays, Michael Arden and Susan Lyons is based on the edited version that Dickens himself used for public performances. People flocked to see the well-known author give voice and interpretation of his famous stories.
There is nothing saccharine about this show as director Michael Arden brings Scrooge’s redemptive ways by putting his evil bah-humbug prejudices on display from the beginning. How sinister is that? It’s a prime show to open a week after Halloween and leads us away from the usual sentimentality of Scrooge’s manipulative and horrific ways. Arden’s direction and Mays’ acting have created and brought a riveting show to the Geffen that runs 90 minutes (without intermission) to this age-old tale.
This adventurous production dazzles as Mays introduces us to the multitude of characters by using a narrative approach and it works in this fresh take on the old plotline. He is an actor who astounds with boundless energy and mimicry. The sinister approach taken would make Ebenezer pat himself on the back amid the amazing accomplishments of set, lighting and sound design. The three put this production into the extraordinary category and elevate and enhance Mays’ performance with visual wizardry.
Lucy Mackinnon’s production design shows the Fezziwig party behind a screen and the real crowd of people is credited to one actor, Matt Wool, for spectral visualization. Dane Laffrey’s revolving set is a non-stop ride to the moon and back. Scrooge’s dingy chamber, his morning bedroom to the eerie exteriors of the graveyard and the dark streets to the dilapidated Cratchit house are brilliantly designed. Joshua D. Reid’s sound design – from squeaky stairs and chains clanging to the musical interludes between – is overblown and loudly perfect for this ghost tale. Ben Stanton’s lighting from the dark to the bright is equally as brilliant in transforming tenses present, past and future. Whether it’s by moon or daylight, the glow from the fireplace or projections of the many scary floods of lights that engage and connect the moments throughout the show.
The show is an enriching and wildly theatrical experience that will bring you and your friends back for more. Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays manages to haunt himself without coming across as a loon – he’s delightfully impressive and Tony Award winner Michael Arden’s direction is masterful.
Tickets: Geffen Playhouse (310) 966 2405