In a season of CHRISTMAS CAROLs from Rhode Island to the North Shore, Neil McGarry’s deserves the “highest praise”…and if not, as one of the Dickens characters boasts, “Tell me higher and I’ll use it.” Bay Colony Shakespeare makes its home in Plymouth most of the year but they travel to Boston over the holidays for McGarry to perform Scrooge…and Marley…and the ghosts….and Bob Crachet, etc.
The performance is fully staged, with McGarry playing every role with gusto. Mind you, this is not a reading, although the one-man tour de force allows for Dickens’ glorious descriptions to remain intact. Most dramatizations drop the rich imagery in favor of dialogue. But because McGarry is every character, he can think aloud, can set the scene, even talk to the audience. Wee children at my performance sat wide-eyed to see MvGarry’s transformations and hear his commanding baritone.
Director Ross MacDonald pays close heed to Dickens’ language, especially to the description of the wretched children Scrooge observes behind the great robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present. In most productions they’re named “Ignorance” and “Want” and that’s that. Now we hear the whole explanation. MacDonald and McGarry use only a few props but you see the icy streets in your mind’s eye as Scrooge’s nephew contemplates a “slide.” You see the countryside as Scrooge relives his solitary school days. Miraculously, you see a room full of jolly celebrants at the Fezziwig Party. Scrooge is overjoyed to be in their company again.
He dances a reel from one side of the stage to the other, and up the aisle. His arms thrown open in sheer jubilation, his head bobbing up and down, he passes one partner with his right hand and another with his left, then returns with great bounds to the head of the line. McGarry’s performance is extraordinary on many counts but one especially: His characters are all so sincere and innocently drawn, that you give yourself over to the story like a child. He inhabits every inch of these charming characters…But wait, if you catch McGarry’s eye just for a second, it wrinkles a bit to say we’re allowed to laugh. It’s a neat trick, to be in the moment and without detracting from it, gently comment on it.
If you missed it in Barnstable tonight, the show continues in Boson at the First Church on Marlborough Street Fri, Sat and Sun Dec. 12, 13, 14. Then back to Plymouth, at the Bay Colony Theater space Thurs, Fri, Sat Dec. 18, 19, 20. For Times and directions, you’ll find it all at BAY COLONY SHAKESPEARE.org