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TBT’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ is no holiday humbug

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Ken Stack is Ebenezer Scrooge in Ten Bucks Theatre's "A Christmas Carol." Ken Stack is Ebenezer Scrooge in Ten Bucks Theatre's "A Christmas Carol." (photo courtesy Ten Bucks Theatre Company)

BANGOR – Despite the best efforts of the most notorious misanthrope in the holiday literary canon, area theatregoers definitely won’t be saying “Bah humbug!” this holiday season.

Ten Bucks Theatre is bringing the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” – and its cantankerous protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge – to the stage. The production – directed by Aimee Gerow from an adaptation by former Penobscot Theatre artistic director Mark Torres and starring local icon Ken Stack as Scrooge – runs through Dec. 15 at the TBT space located in the Bangor Mall.

It’s a classic tale, brought to life in a minimalist style as a hardworking dozen-strong ensemble does their best to capture the spirit of the story. Talented actors revolve around the irascible Stack as the beloved narrative unfolds. Dressed in simple blacks, the ensemble uses costume pieces and a flexible set to evoke the rich cast of characters that drive it.

There’s no need for synopsis here; everyone is familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the spirits that help turn him from a hard-hearted miser into a man with goodwill toward all his fellow man. It’s one of the most beloved Christmas stories in the literary canon.

For years, Ken Stack’s performance as Scrooge was a holiday tradition in this town. Penobscot Theatre Company annually mounted a production of “A Christmas Carol” – many times using this very same Torres adaptation – and there, at the center of it all, was Stack, bringing Scrooge to vivid, snarling life.

And while there are plenty of valid arguments to be made that there’s no need to continue trotting out the same show year after year – goodness knows there are plenty of amazing shows out there that suit the season, whether or not they’re overtly holiday-themed – there’s also something to be said for the value of tradition. There’s an entire generation of Bangor-area folks who have the shared experience of seeing Stack as Scrooge. That connection is important. It matters.

This version of “A Christmas Carol” offers a wonderfully stripped-down look at the play; nothing matters except telling the story. And tell it they do, with a cadre of black-clad narrators moving into and out of the space, taking on multiple characters with a shift in posture and the donning of a scarf. Yes, this is Scrooge’s story – one told with the usual easy excellence that Stack brings to the table – but there are so many people needed to properly tell it.

Scrooge’s put-upon clerk Bob Cratchit is played with suitably good-hearted deference by Bernard Hope. Julie Lisnet has a nice moment as the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s seven-years-dead business partner. Sue Amero is fun as the Ghost of Christmas Present, while Nathan Roach lends his portrayal of Scrooge’s nephew Fred a twinkling sweetness. But truly, these and the other members of the ensemble – Joe Fisher, Joshua Lorenzo, Jennifer Snow, Julia Vine and Rachel Vine – all contribute mightily to bringing the tale to life.

And then there’s Stack, of course. There’s something very compelling about watching an actor who is completely, utterly, unwaveringly comfortable with the character being portrayed. It’s mesmerizing, the seeming ease with which he brings Scrooge to life. This particular journey travels along a well-worn path for Stack, yet for all that, there’s nothing forced or disingenuous about it. It simply … is, in a way that is wonderful to watch.

Director Gerow and the TBT team have opted for a less-is-more approach that suits a show like this well. The result is a production that is charming in its shagginess, one whose design team – set designer Elliot Wilcox, lighting designer Tony Gerow, sound designer Melissa Burkart and costumer Michelle Handley – embraced that shared ethos. While you CAN do this show with a lot of flash and spectacle, it’s also a story that lends itself to a minimalist approach. Because that’s the thing – “A Christmas Carol” is about the story above all else, more so than most shows. Of course, that also means that the performers are left to do much of the heavy narrative lifting without the aid of those spectacular moments; happily, this group proves largely up to the task.

For many reasons, the story of “A Christmas Carol” will always be held near and dear to my heart. That affection was only reinforced by this production; Ten Bucks has assembled a simple and engaging version of this beloved tale, one that will almost certainly put audiences in the holiday spirit.

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 December 2019 07:10

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