Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol
Adapted from Charles Dickens by Tod Creamer. Dir. Kate Buckley. With William Brown, Jonathan Weir, Lisa Dodson. Goodman Theatre.
The theory of diminishing marginal utilities probably relates more to the Goodman's A Christmas Carol than it does to any holiday film or cartoon special you watch annually. You can do the Peanuts gang on your own time and your own terms. But to schlep downtown every December and sit among squirrely kids and candy-wrapper–crinkling grannies could easily become a chore if you've done it even once.
But if you're taking it on for the first time (as I was), you might well up without warning. Yeah, it's the same bag of tricks that gets trotted out every holiday season, but any trick works the first time you see it, and among this Carol's best assets are its scariest. The ghost of Marley, in particular, appears and disappears with frightful magic in Scrooge's towering baroque bed chamber.
Dickens purists have some room to gripe if they so choose. The Goodman's version of Industrial Revolution–era London isn't nearly grimy as it could be, erring on the side of a Hallmark ceramic village. As the Ghost of Christmas Present and Emily Cratchit, Christine Bunuan cloys a bit. And every time the Ghost of Christmas Present shamelessly throws a handful of glitter in the air, accompanied by a musical glissando, you might wonder, Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? But even with artificial sugars and preservatives added, it's still the best Christmas story ever told, and it's told here with seasoned panache.—Christopher Piatt