DramaNew YorkOff-BroadwayPerformance ArtPhysical TheatreReview

A Christmas Carol – New Ohio Theatre, New York

Writer: Charles Dickens

Adaptor:  Matt Opatrny

Director: Jessica Burr

Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers

Giving to the poor makes them dependent on services and unwilling to work. Those who can care for themselves should and leave others to do the same. Hoarding riches is the only way to remain secure. These concepts seem as prevalent in modern day as they did when Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol in 1843. Wealth disparity and the disdain some of the wealthy have for the less fortunate is as pressing a social issue in 2016 as it was in the mid-nineteenth century, and the artists of blessed unrest draw the parallels beautifully in their adaptation of the classic Christmas tale at the New Ohio Theatre.

blessed unrest is known for their deeply physical performance style. Incorporating a small, double- and triple-cast ensemble and minimally flexible skeletal set pieces, the imaginative aptitude of the ensemble, under Jessica Burr’s direction, knows very few boundaries. There is tongue-in-cheek, fourth wall smashing shtick as well as impossible physicality played off as everyday. The effect is powerful; haunting at some moments and palpably joyous at others. However one familiar with the incredible physical skill of this company will notice that this production contains less complex movement than one would typically expect. The bodies move well within the space, but the opportunities for indulging in the brilliance of their movement are a bit stunted in this particular production.

The storytelling of this adaptation is charming, with a style reminiscent of Dickens’ original text without firmly living there. Language, costuming, and props support the plays existence outside of time, neither now nor then, creating a lovely parallel for the permanence of the tale. That said, some choices, like using the song Applause by Lady Gaga during the Fezziwig party scene as well as overtly wink-wink nudge-nudge asides by the cast throughout the piece feel a bit reaching, as though the attempt to appeal to modern sensibilities is a ploy rather than an organic part of the piece itself.

Bringing Dickens’ timeless tale with a contemporary twist is no easy feat, and blessed unrest succeeds where many others have failed. Though there are a few flaws that remove the piece from transcending all the hazards of adaptation, the ensemble brings a charming and cheerful take on a beloved holiday classic, all while driving the message of kindness, goodwill, and care for all to the forefront.

Reviewed on 30 December 2016

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The American team is under the editorship of Adrienne Sowers. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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