comscore MVT takes familiar tale of Scrooge deeper and darker | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

MVT takes familiar tale of Scrooge deeper and darker

    Walt Gaines immerses himself in the role of a stagehand playing Scrooge.

A play within a play — that’s playwright Doris Baizley’s approach in adapting Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic, "A Christmas Carol."

A tyrannical stage manager and his waiflike prop boy — or prop girl, in the case of Manoa Valley Theatre’s production — discover that the troupe of actors who have arrived to do "A Christmas Carol" is two actors short of a full cast. The actor who would be playing Scrooge has quit, and there’s no one available to play Tiny Tim.

The prop boy/girl is eager to play Tiny Tim. In little more time than it takes to say "Bah, humbug!" the stage manager is in character as Scrooge.


» Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Road

» When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (except Thanksgiving), 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 28; also at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday

» Admission: $30 ($25, seniors and military; $15, age 25 and younger)

» Info: 988-6131 or


From that point on Baizley’s version of Dickens’ classic is for the most part a straightforward and sober journey through a familiar albeit ever-popular story of spiritual redemption.

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge scorns the cheerful camaraderie of Christmas and says that workhouses are a better approach to poverty than charity. At home, as he prepares to go to bed, the miser is visited by the ghost of his longtime business partner, Jacob Marley, who describes his own wretched fate and warns Scrooge that it will be his as well unless his attitude and values change. Scrooge then meets the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. He wakes on Christmas morning a changed man who immediately uses his wealth to help others.

The focal point of MVT’s dark and grim production is Walt Gaines’ commanding performance as Scrooge. OK, so Greg Howell (hair and makeup design) has given the actor a comically bad "bald" wig that has ridges reminiscent of a low-budget Klingon headpiece. Since Gaines starts out playing a stagehand who is playing Scrooge, that isn’t a big problem. More important, he goes so deep into character that the play-within-a-play premise fades away and he becomes Scrooge.

Gaines captures all facets of the character in entertaining style. There’s Scrooge’s curt dismissal of the woman who solicits him for a donation to her charity. There is the range of emotions he experiences during his conversation with Marley’s ghost. And there is the broader range of emotions Scrooge feels when he recalls his youth, sees how others are celebrating in the present and previews the sordid aftermath of his death in the future.

Director Betty Burdick brings out the dark and ghostly aspects of the story so effectively that this is not a show for impressionable young children. The groups of masked or hooded figures who confront the terrified miser are threatening enough. A scene in which ghoulish scavengers are seen stripping Scrooge’s dead body of salable body parts is darker still.

On the flip side, Braddoc DeCaires (Bob Cratchett) contributes welcome bits of visual comedy. In one scene he uses his hands to represent two of the bickering Cratchett children. In another, the director/narrator (Kiana Rivera) mentions Cratchett picking up a ruler in self-defense and then dropping it when he realizes he doesn’t need to defend himself; DeCaires "drops" the nonexistent ruler with just enough exaggeration to get a laugh were it is needed.

The play-within-a-play idea kicks back in for a moment when the time comes for the prop girl (Melissa Hamblet) to say her one line as Tiny Tim. When she does — and gets it right — other members of the cast sigh in relief and then get back into character.

Sara Ward (mask and prop design) amps up the ominous ambience with masks that seem part commedia dell’arte and part Mardi Gras. Janine Myers (set and lighting design) takes what is essentially a bare stage and makes it a cold and frightening place.


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