A Christmas Carol
Goodman Theatre. Adapted from Charles Dickens by Tom Creamer. Dir. William Brown. With Jonathan Weir.
It’s the ultimate capitalist worker’s fantasy. Your market-driven boss gets a soul and you get a raise (onstage, anyway). Small wonder the Goodman’s found 29 seasons of ticket-takers, although with well-heeled audiences, one wonders about the other end of the fantasy: Bosses get to imagine themselves as generous and humane (onstage, anyway). If this seems too churlishly realistic, too Dickensian, look to the very real-world, unusually plausible boss man of Jonathan Weir. When his Scrooge complains that Christmas is just an excuse to legally pick one’s pockets, we feel the man has a point. By the end, when his surprised nephew asks why he’s come—and a transformed Scrooge simply states, “I’ve come…for dinner”—we believe the man has a heart. By then, so skillfully has Weir taken us on Scrooge’s journey that one’s own heart is happily served up alongside the Cratchits’ Christmas goose.
If Weir provides the beating pulse, it’s within an inert body. Devices such as the deafening chains of Jacob Marley suggest the hokey bang-and-flash of a Disneyland ride. Director Brown (who played the Goodman’s Ebenezer for several years and now directs the show for the first time) falls into the trap of contrasting Scrooge’s scrooginess with the over-the-top all things nice of the Fezziwigs and Cratchits. Given their forced, false joviality, it’s hard to begrudge Scrooge a “bah humbug” or two. All the more reason to admire Weir, who has us believing in such once-a-year fantasies as capitalism with a heart.—Novid Parsi