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The Scrooge Effect

OCT offers another look at Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Robert Hirsh and Brittany Dorris in OCT’s A Christmas Carol
Robert Hirsh and Brittany Dorris in OCT’s A Christmas Carol

Most of us have grown up with the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge rediscovering his Christmas spirit and, while the story doesn’t change, our relationship to the story does. 

Sometimes life makes Scrooges of us all with its litany of heartbreak, missed opportunities and too much time wasted stressing about careers and money. That’s what makes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol so immortal. 

As time passes, it becomes harder to look at A Christmas Carol with the wide-eyed wonderment of a child (like I used to) — particularly in the age of Black Friday’s naked consumerism and all manner of worldly horrors pushing and shoving into our consciousness.

Oh Dickens, you warned us all those years ago — but were we listening?

Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s 2015 annual edition of A Christmas Carol is adapted and directed by Elizabeth Helman. 

Helman’s adaptation makes space for holiday music, nicely establishing the Victorian tone. The show is briskly, if somewhat flatly, paced. The production is strong, though some action sequences — Fezziwig’s ball, for example — could have been cleaner.

Reprising the role of Scrooge is Robert Hirsh. Hirsh is perfectly understated; we feel some sympathy for the cranky old codger. We’ve all known people like him, hardened on the outside, and maybe some of us can see a little of ourselves in the hurt that led him to where he is.

Bob Cratchit (Tony Stirpe) is rosy-cheeked and optimistic, Joseph Workman brings a plucky derring-do to the role of Scrooge’s nephew Fred and the spirits of Jacob Marley and Christmas Past, Present and Future (played by Bruce Lundy, Alycia Olivar and Brittany Dorris) offer some fun frights for all ages. As Tiny Tim, Hugh Brinkley shoots an arrow straight through your heart.

When telling a story as woven into our culture as A Christmas Carol, the audience is yours to lose. We all expect and want different things from the experience; we have our own notions of how the story should be told. It’s hard to imagine OCT’S 2015 production falling short of anyone’s expectations. 

Maybe it was just me, or the way the moral of the story hit me at this time in my life, or the hangover from all the bad news in the media, but I left the theater feeling mildly — but not unpleasantly — maudlin; a new chapter in my interaction with this timeless classic.

I wonder if that’s what Dickens had in mind from the very beginning. — William Kennedy

A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 20 at Oregon Contemporary Theatre; $15-$28.