Perhaps the greatest grievance of the Christmas season is its, at times, redundancy. While I typically enjoy a live production or movie that feels familiar as much as anyone, it can be so refreshing to see a show that reinvents the holiday genre by telling a new(ish) story. Twin Beach Players’ (TBP) current production of “The Ghost Before Christmas” fits this description.
This play explores the age-old question of if you could forget all of your pain, would it be worth forgetting the good times as well? …a holiday production that brings depth to the proverbial table.
This year, TBP decided to not only choose a lesser-known Christmas story, but they also worked with a local playwright. Rick Thompson pens an inventively intuitive adaptation of a more obscure Charles Dickens Christmas novella entitled “The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain.” (It was the final novella in Dickens’ series of five Christmas books.) Thompson’s rendition of this story is instead far more concisely named “The Ghost Before Christmas.” The basic premise centers around a bereaved man named Pericles Redclaw who has decided that he would rather forget all that anguishes him because of how much misery the death of his late sister (among other things) has caused him. A mysterious phantom visits him one night and offers him just this, along with the ability to pass it onto others. From there, this play weaves a festive tale of redemption and forgiveness.
Sid Curl serves as both director and designer for this production. Producing an originally written script can be quite the feat and Curl welcomes the challenge. Scenes rarely drag which is amazing considering how famous Dickens was for being a long-winded author (recall that he was compensated based on his word count). I really appreciated his addition of the children who sang familiar Christmas carols during each scene change which made them feel seamless and quick because of the delightful pull of focus. The carolers in period-appropriate, raggedy clothing (beautifully designed by Dawn Denison) helped create a typical Dickensian setting in England of the 1800s.
While I enjoyed the energy of the entire cast (and especially all of the adorable carolers), there were three actors who stood out—Terri McKinstry as Mrs. William, William Righter as Pericles Redclaw, and Robert Rausch as Phillip Swidger. McKinstry imbues her character with heartfelt emotion that made her feel like a real, authentic human being. Righter paints a troubled man and methodically sends his character on a believable trajectory of extraordinary growth. Rausch creates a character of comforting familiarity that made me feel as though I was watching my own grandfather embodied in Phillip Swidger.
While all of the typically American Christmas festivities are great fun, this is a show that really hones in on the deeper qualities associated with Christmas such as redemption, forgiveness, and gratitude for the loved ones that we have with us. This play explores the age-old question of if you could forget all of your pain, would it be worth forgetting the good times as well? If you’re looking for a holiday production that brings depth to the proverbial table, then this is the play for you.
Approximate Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Advisory: This show contains very mild cursing and a brief mention of suicide. However, this should be considered a relatively family friendly show.
“The Ghost Before Christmas” runs through December 12, 2021 at the Twin Beach Players, 9021 Dayton Avenue North Beach, MD 20714. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit their website here. TBP is currently requiring masks for all patrons.