There are two things that always come through, and are different each and every time, when Philadelphia thespian Anthony Lawton takes the stage. Intensity and intelligence. Lawton seems to wrenchingly challenge an audience to look away from his choices as a thinker and as actor. Even when still and quiet. Even though the most tried and true brand of traditional theater.
Best known for his edited/curated one-man versions of theologian C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” and “The Screwtape Letters,” there is no more traditional, and moral work for Lawton to essay and provoke than Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.” This year, however, such provocation comes, of course, virtually through the Lantern Theater Company until December 27.
Again, presented in tandem sound and vision men Thom Weaver and Christopher Colucci and in partnership with Mirror Theatre Company, Lawton is still portraying every character in A Christmas Carol with passion, invention and verve – like an agile wrestler battling against himself and the redemption theatrical’s ten characters (Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Fezziwig, Brother Fred, Mrs. Cratchit, Martha Cratchit, and of course, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come).
“I’ve put on the famed pandemic pounds that people talk about while at home, and not on stage as much as I would be, normally,” said Lawton, not quite laughing about the dreaded C-19 weight gain. “This makes some of the moving around more of a workout.” Workout he does, however, in what is always an impassioned, physical display.
The biggest and most favorable change to Dickens’ moralist tome on greed and isolation, tempered only by love and redemption, now done in a shockingly lean, mean and contemporary take on the original novella is how Anthony Lawton interacts with the camera.
“’The virtual A Christmas Carol’ really and truly is closer to television than it is theater, but, even more so, it is a hybrid. There are so many more close-ups. Which is a very TV thing. There’s no longer that three-sided boxing ring that I use as a stage with an audience on every side and front. You’re acting into a void. Something that takes quite a bit of time to get used to… Having no reaction.“
Still filmed on a stage at the safely distanced confines of St. Stephen’s Church in Center City, in September, Lawton’s A Christmas Carol still plays by its own rules. Whether with an audience or in a virtual streaming session.