A Heartwarming Holiday Play

Mr. Dickens and His Carol

‘Twas a dark and stormy night.

Seriously. ‘Twas. Would I lie to you?

Big, spongy globs of snow were flying at us sideways, and hitting our coats with a splash. As this weird snow hit the ground, it immediately intermingled with the blanket of previously accumulated powdery snow, resulting in a mélange of wet, muddy, slippery slush pies. The winter wonderland of the morning was quickly turning into an evening winter wasteland.

Our feet made squelching noises as we walked. We were drenched through and through. And it was cold and raw in the way it can only be in the Pacific Northwest. I could feel it in the very marrow of my bones. No sane person would be out in this crap. Oh, but we had theater tickets.

On a night like that, I’d much rather be snuggled up with my dog in front of a warm fire, clad in flannel pajamas and bunny slippers (me, not the dog or the fire) and wrapped in a fuzzy blanket (both me and the dog, but definitely not the fire). It is the kind of weather that calls out for one to stay home, engrossed in a good book. There are very few things that would make me shed those jammies and venture out into a slushy hellscape.

I will admit that I have been known to run down the street and pick up some pho on a night light that. It’s the ultimate comfort food. But then I’d run back home to enjoy it before the fire, with the dog and the bunny slippers. The only other thing I can think of that would make me face soggy misery, short of an urgent need for an emergency room, is a play.

Plays, when done well, are magical things. They allow you to get all cozy in your seat and be transported to another world. You don’t even need bunny slippers. You just need some imagination.

A wonderful play can feel all the more decadent when you know that the weather outside is frightful. You are one of an exclusive group of people who get to leave that place where one uses the words “trudge” and “galoshes”, and instead sit back, warm and dry, while passively observing a marvelous adventure. Sign me up.

The play in question on this night was Mr. Dickens and His Carol, based on the book of the same name by Samantha Silva. It’s a fictionalized literary cloak draped over a non-fiction skeleton of Charles Dickens‘ true circumstances as he wrote A Christmas Carol.

At the time, Dickens was partway through his latest serial novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, and it was turning out to be a shocking failure after his huge success with The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Old Curiosity Shop. This was extremely bad news as he was already under a great deal of financial pressure.

His wife just had the fifth of their ten children, and there were a whole host of people counting on him for their livings as well, including agents, publishers, newspapermen, and household staff, in addition to a father who was so financially irresponsible that growing up, Dickens was able to see for himself what life was like for a patriarch in a debtor’s prison.

Based on that information, Samantha Silva weaved a story about what it must have been like for the author to desperately write A Christmas Carol simply to keep his financial head above water. She turned Dickens into a Scrooge himself, bitter at all the hangers on who were intent on draining him of all his money. She allows Dickens to transform in the end, just like Scrooge did, and that is what inspires him to write A Christmas Carol as we know and love it today. God bless us, every one.

This preview performance of the world premier of the play took place in Seattle Rep’s Bagley Wright Theater. We had never been to this venue. It felt intimate. It gave me the same kind of butterflies I feel when I burrow deep into the stacks of a dusty old library filled with mahogany and possibilities. And the play would soon follow suit with its own inner flutter of butterflies.

The director announced that this was a preview performance to work out the kinks, but I saw no kinks whatsoever. Not only were the actors amazing, but the costume and set design were superb as well. I love how the actors seamlessly moved the furniture on and off the stage as the play was going on. They also provided the sound effects from just off stage.

The stage itself had a rotating floor, which allowed elements of the set to be used for different purposes as they were turned to different angles. I’m impressed when actors remember their lines and move and emote at the same time, so it’s a thousand times more impressive when they do all of that along with walking on a moving floor, keeping time with the other characters, and always managing to orient themselves to the audience, along with keeping track of what furniture needs to go where for any given scene.

That the cast and crew managed to pull all that off without a hitch was quite a feat. In the end, we were treated to a deliciously deep dive into Victorian London, with all its struggles and triumphs. And I’m pleased to say there was no slush involved.

The good news is that you can still get tickets to see this play as it will be here in Seattle until December 23rd. I hope it does, indeed, catch on and travel the world. I can imagine it becoming a delightful Christmas tradition. It was well worth a slog through the winter wickedness of the streets of Seattle to get there. For a delightful 40 second taste of this play that will leave you wanting more, check out this YouTube video.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took while the actors were off stage. Even without people, it looks like a wonderful place, well worth exploring, doesn’t it? I highly recommend that you do so.

I’m no Dickens, but I wrote a book, too, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

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