A Christmas Carol charms for COVID times

"It's Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night."

And the spirits of the Ridgefield Theater Barn have brought their own miracle back to the arts! You haven’t missed that either!

Now, in the wake of a resurgence of cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, hope and joy may be a little harder to find than in seasons past, but fear not, friends. Ever passionate about providing quality, affordable, enjoyable theatre for the community, the Ridgefield Theater Barn has stepped up to the challenge that today’s precarious times have set. From now until December 20th, the Ridgefield Theater Barn has taken this traditionally magical season to present Charles Dickens’ most prolific tale of pain, regret,and redemption in a space both intimate and safe, whether live or virtual. 

With continued concerns about gathering, I chose a virtual ticket to enjoy A Christmas Carol, adapted and starring Patrick Spadaccino in a captivating one man show of the classic tale. While I was prepared to trade the electricity and thrill of a live theatre experience with the safety of video viewing that life in a pandemic may require, I am still moved at the degree of warmth and welcome painted by this show; there was magic in that sparce stage and phenomenal storyteller, captured perfectly in film design by Katherine Ray.

Directed by Scott R. Brill, Spadaccino embodies the whole of the novella, including twenty five characters and the author himself, and in the telling, the audience is able to hear more of the intricately detailed prose that is synonymous with Dickens. With Brill’s specific direction and minimalist staging, Spadaccino crafts the classic tale from darkness, emerging onto the stage to fill a sepia toned high-back chair and transport the audience to and from 1840s England and 21st century Connecticut seamlessly. 

One of the fresh elements of the piece is Spadaccino’s ability to give the cautionary tale an increased level of importance by way of his role as the storyteller. We are not just watching Ebenezer Scrooge find his heart and humanity on our own through marvelously acted dialogue and monologue, but guided there by the author himself, and byevery character portrayed. They each appear to have a duty to illustrate to the audience (live or virtual) the importance of empathy, compassion, and benevolence to others, and act as a catalyst to change a life for the better, and as a bonus, our own. Jacob Marley is not rattling his chains, proverbial or actual, for us to see, but outlining an edict of urgency, delivering his warning straight to the viewer, no spooky specter tricks required. 

Light and sound (designed by Matt Pagliaro and Matt Austin respectively), worked in tandem as accents and highlights (and at times, a bit too much unnecessary underscoring composed beautifully by Nick Bicât) to Spadaccino’s powerhouse performance. Spadaccino weaves throughout each character with ease and no confusion, with barely a prop or a costume suggestion to distinguish the changes. Still, Renee Purdy, in partnership with The Warner Theater, designed the costumes with uniform accuracy and warmth (although a stark white nightcap may not be the greatest choice of accessory color when hanging in the dark in a world lit by green if it is not in use).

This play is a charm and not to be missed, particularly for those who are aching to feel the pulse of theatrical performance beat again. Mind the COVID-19 precautions at the Barn, or enjoy from home, but make this show a warm mug of hope in your 2020 holiday traditions.

Experience A Christmas Carol at the Ridgefield Theater Barn, live or virtually, by following their link at: https://ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org/christmascarol/ 

A Christmas Carol runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through Sunday, December 20, 2020, with doors opening a half hour prior to curtain. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission. Limited seating is available, cabaret style, one socially distanced table per party, with no eating or drinking permitted. Please observe COVID-19 protocols as masks are required, washing and sanitizing stations are available, and an OSHA Certified COVID Compliance Officer is in house to assure the safest environment possible for theatrical enjoyment.



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