Running until January 6 through the Lantern Theater Company at The Drake, their holiday season’s version of Charles Dickens’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” is nothing like any of the other takes currently gracing several other stages across the Delaware Valley.
As adapted by actor-director-writer Anthony Lawton – a man who has re-contextualized classic text before while tackling his one-man versions of theologian C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” and “The Screwtape Letters” – Dickens’ moralist tome on greed and isolation, tempered only by love and redemption, is a shockingly lean, mean and contemporary take on the original novella.
And physical, highly physical. In conversation with Lawton and co-creator Thom Weaver (who handled scenic and lighting design while fellow co-creator Christopher Colucci tackled sound design), Lawton discussed needing the aid of a chiropractor for every show, as playing each and every one of the roles in Dickens’ tale of bitterness made bright is as taxing on the body as it is the brain and soul. As he races the pace of his “A Christmas Carol” in order to keep up with its more modernist telling (don’t worry; it’s Dickens, just not a ye olde version), the story becomes crisper, more cutting, and clearer. Adding to this clarity and Lawton’s contemporary vision is his collaborators, who bring audiences from the heart of London’s streets, and the atmosphere where ghosts of Christmas’ Past, Present, and Future dwell, to the middle of Philadelphia.
“At my parents’ house, when I was a kid, we had this album of “A Christmas Carol” with the actors Paul Scofield and Ralph Richardson performing,” said Lawton during a chat on my Theater in the Round radio program. “I would go in the living room when no one was around, turn off all the lights except the Christmas tree lights, and listen. Throughout the years, that became a sacred event for me.”
You’ll find that Lawton, Weaver, and Colucci have made “A Christmas Carol” just as sacred for this new generation.