It’s after Thanksgiving and all through the U.S., street lamps each don their own wreath. Folks are putting up décor and prepping their gifts, as holiday movies take over TV. Yet amongst all those favorite stories, one stands out of them all. No Christmas is quite Christmas, in my opinion, without Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” PTP delivers a new twist on this timeless story, but the moral undoubtedly holds true. Our lives are connected, impacting each other. We can bless or we can curse. Which one will you choose?
Every two years, Port Tobacco Players in La Plata, MD, features one of the many renditions of Charles Dickens’ beloved classic “A Christmas Carol.” Once in a while, the rendition they choose is written by a local author. This year just happens to be one of those hidden gems, adapted by PTP’s very own Kim Bessler. Her twist had a few major changes, one of which is the setting. This year the story takes place right here in Washington D.C. and spans a time period of over 100 years of Maryland and D.C. history.
Port Tobacco Players is giving an incredible gift to audiences through this show…
As I set foot in the theatre that Sunday afternoon, I was greeted by old familiar tunes from the 1900s playing over the loudspeaker as impeccably dressed young ushers escorted me to my seat. I began to thumb through my program, and to my surprise found an issue of the Port Tobacco Times tucked inside, with fascinating historical information about the places later visited in the play. Whoever developed and produced this fascinating read deserves a round of applause – it certainly added a great deal of depth to the setting of the play, while also connecting me further to the history of my stomping grounds (having grown up in this area).
“A Christmas Carol In Washington” began and I was immersed in the historical setting immediately. Transitioning from place to place with a set that worked much like a storybook – you just flip the page and a new scene begins – was ingenious! Kudos to Doug Wohlenhaus for creating and building a set that could transition from one place to the next so quickly. I heartedly believe that Kim Bessler, the playwright who adapted this play, discovered a wonderful connection between the historical information and Charles Dickens’ wonderful story. The two pieces worked together effortlessly, and I found myself once again in awe of the historical research conducted to put this play together and to prepare the actors/actresses for the performance.
Aside from the ingenious use of Maryland and D.C. history to add a fresh taste to an old classic, I must congratulate a few of the actors and actresses in the show. As the familiar story progressed, Scrooge (played perfectly by Randy Tusing) went from vile and cruel to humbly repentant before my eyes. I was amazed at Tusing’s ability to capture the transformation; showing his many emotions so openly. He definitely evoked an empathetic response for Scrooge that I’ve never felt before.
Also, Belle Posey (played effortlessly by Annie Lockhart) was breathtaking. She had my favorite costume in the entire show, and simply wrenched my heart with her performance! The businesswomen (portrayed by Christy Orhner, Camryn Ging, and Kim Danek), and Helen Eden (played by Kate Taylor) were perfectly hilarious and delightfully clever in their cameos, and their costumes/hair were period perfect! I must congratulate the costumer, Heather LaBelle, and her team for their dedication to detailed period attire, and the hair designer, Ronna Rawlins Johnson, and her team: not a hair was out of place that shouldn’t have been. I was in awe of the young man who portrayed Turkey Boy (Hayden Long). His acting ability and comedic timing were amazing, and he had me in stitches with his boyish glee!
Truly, the entire cast gave it their all, and I congratulate them on their accomplishments. Many of the smaller characters, such as the ones named above, held an incredible depth in their performance and added so much to the story. It was clear that the director, Mike Gahan, focused on the details of the performance, ensuring that every actor understood the purpose of their character, from Scrooge down to the maid at Fred’s house. He also recruited a wonderful technical crew. Melissa Ball, the stage manager, conducted set transitions so seamlessly I often forget they were happening, and the lighting and sound teams never missed a mark. Congrats to them all!
I was rather confused by the purpose behind the inclusion of several songs and dances in the show. The music composed by James D. Watson was fitting to the scene changes, and I thought the inclusion of period music during the pre-show and intermission times was wonderful. However, the cast breaking into song and/or dance seemed out of place in the show at times, especially at the end of Act 1. It may have had more to do with the transitions in and out of those song and dance numbers, or the fact that they seemed very ‘performance-like’ to me and not naturally a part of the story, but I was confused by the choice.
“A Christmas Carol in Washington” is definitely a clever piece, capturing over 100 years of local history. Perhaps the greatest charm in this show is that, for residents of the Maryland and D.C. area, there is a deeper connection with the characters due to the setting being right in their own backyards. At Sunday’s show, one older audience member left the show in tears, connecting so much of the history to her own story. She kept saying “I was there. I saw that. I remember…” It was beautiful.
Port Tobacco Players is giving an incredible gift to audiences through this show; the gift of a stroll along memory lane. It really makes you think about how little moments add up to years, and suddenly your future is already past. Perhaps the greatest gift this play gives is the reminder that those little moments influence the lives of other people too, and we each have the power to bless or to curse. Which will you choose?
Advisory: Special effects including strobe lights and fog machines are used in the second act and there are some sexual innuendos. Best suited for ages 7 and up (with parental guidance).
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
“A Christmas Carol In Washington” will be playing at Port Tobacco Players in La Plata, MD until December 16th, 2018. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please see here.