Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs “A Christmas Carol.” Again. at the Building Stage | Theater review
Blake Montgomery’s Dickens asks why we want to hear Scrooge’s tale again, but doesn’t provide a compelling answer.
In the living room of his Victorian home, Charles Dickens tells his audience, “What I don’t understand is why you want to see A Christmas Carol again.” With at least five stage adaptations of Dickens’s holiday classic playing in the Chicago area this season, his confusion is understandable. Why watch one man read A Christmas Carol from a book when there’s a full-fledged production a Blue Line stop away at the Goodman? The question is reiterated more than once by Blake Montgomery, who spends most of the first third of his one-man show as Dickens avoiding the podium where he’ll be reading from the accursed tome chronicling Ebenezer Scrooge’s horrific and wonderful Christmas Eve.
Montgomery is a skilled, charming performer, interacting with audience members before the show to cultivate a comfortable atmosphere. The production is at its best when the Building Stage’s artistic director delves into Dickens’s relationship to the text and modern culture’s obsession with Scrooge’s story, but deeper analysis is sidelined in favor of Montgomery’s straightforward reading of Dickens’s tale. The actor spends too much time elaborating on why he doesn’t want to read a story that’s heard every season. By the time he gets to Scrooge, the audience begrudgingly has to listen.