A Christmas Carol at the Merchant's House

by Brooke Pierce

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday December 18, 2014

'A Christmas Carol' returns to The Merchant's House
'A Christmas Carol' returns to The Merchant's House  (Source:Facebook)

There are many reasons why Charles Dickens' classic story "A Christmas Carol" endures well over 150 years after it was first published, but one of the attractions of the tale is its setting in Victorian era London. Warm fires, candle-lit rooms and period decorations are all part of the mental picture one has when reading the story.

All the more reason to present a theatrical version of "A Christmas Carol" inside one of New York City's oldest homes, right when it's all decorated for the Christmas season. Built in the East Village in 1832, the Merchant's House Museum is one of NYC's designated historic houses, and through December 28 it is hosting Summoners Ensemble Theatre's one-man production of "A Christmas Carol."

"A Christmas Carol" is of course the well-known tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a solitary skinflint who scorns charity, treats his lone employee Bob Cratchit like a dog and responds to wishes of a 'Merry Christmas!' with a cranky 'Bah humbug!' After a late-night haunting from the ghost of his deceased former business partner Jacob Marley, Scrooge is visited by a series of spirits.

The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Scrooge that he was once a happy young man before succumbing to greed; The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him the joy that even the sickest and poorest people are experiencing on Christmas Eve; and The Ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come gives him a glimpse into an unhappy future. The lessons to be learned from these supernatural visitations are not lost on Scrooge, and he comes out of the night a much happier, more generous man.

By now there have been countless adaptations of "A Christmas Carol" -- movies, musicals, modernizations, cartoons and stage versions both big and small -- and each tries to give the story its own special stamp. One of the special pleasures of this one-man version, which was co-adapted by the production's star John Kevin Jones along with director Dr. Rhonda Dodd, is that it offers us the chance to hear some of Dickens' actual writing aloud through narration. This allows the beloved author's rich voice and subtle humor to get its fair share of time in the spotlight.

But, don't worry, Jones is not simply reading the story to us (though that in itself may have been quite enjoyable). It's not long before he begins to transform into the tale's many characters. Through voices and postures, Jones gives us miserly Scrooge, put-upon Cratchit, cheerful Tiny Tim, terrifying ghost Jacob Marley, the spirits and a variety of other characters ranging from Scrooge's nephew to the fiancee that left him when she realized she would always take second place to his love of money.

Jones' skill as a performer and storyteller, combined with Dickens' vivid descriptions, brings the events of "A Christmas Carol" to perfect life. You can practically feel the chill of the room where Bob Cratchit toiled, the eerie gloom of Scrooge's house, and the warm glow emanating from the homes where friends and families were gathering to celebrate. More than anything, one comes away from this "A Christmas Carol" struck by Dickens' almost sacred belief in the power of Christmas to promote goodwill towards mankind. It makes for a very touching and inspiring (and, yes, spooky) way to get into the holiday spirit.

For this production, the audience gets to sit right in the parlor of the lovely Merchant's House Museum, and the confines of the space mean that this is a very intimate experience. It also means that there's limited seating, so get your tickets quickly!

"A Christmas Carol" runs through Dec. 28 at the Merchant's House Museum, 29 East 4th Street in New York City. For information or tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit merchantshouse.org/christmascarol2014.

Brooke Pierce is a freelance writer and playwright in New York City. Her plays have received staged readings at the American Theatre of Actors, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Stage One Theater. Brooke is a member of the Drama Desk and the Dramatists Guild.