COHORT REPORT: MRT MEETS EBENEZER SCROOGE

In 1842, on a trip from London to Boston, Charles Dickens visited Lowell. The squalid work conditions of the Mill Girls and their “visits by spirits” inspired some of his A Christmas Carol. When he returned to Boston on a reading tour of A Christmas Carol at the Parker House, Charles Dickens practiced in front of a mirror which is now in the mezzanine and has had sightings of Dickens’ ghost.

MRT invites you to attend A Christmas Carol while Joel Colodner (It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Going to See the Kid) narrates the life of Ebenezer Scrooge just as Charles Dickens did on his tour long ago. The costumes and set take us to London and perfectly reflects the Dickens’ era. MRT is blessed by the talent of Director Megan Sandberg-Zakian to bring such creativity to this production.

When Joel reaches into his Dickens to guide the spirit tour, he mesmerizes us. When he describes the “clutching, wrenching” Mr. Scrooge who wants “those who wish Merry Christmas be boiled in pudding with a stake in their heart,” his dexterous voice brings us into the character. When Marley arrives dragging his ponderous chains, Joel’s inventive acting lets us see their journey to the past. And, it is his acting that engages us in comedic exchanges, dramatic voices and gestures in and out of characters during the performance.

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Rebecca White and Joel Colodner in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Photo by Meghan Moore.

There is a sprinkle of music by bells and instruments on the stage performed by the talents of Nathan Leigh and Rebecca White. They also bring forth the singing of known and unknown carols from long ago. You may find yourself quietly humming and perhaps there may even be sing along

When we see Scrooge go with the spirits to see his past and present we are moved to reflect on our own life. When he sees the future and pleads “no, no…” about his fate, Joel stirs our sadness. Then we are elated when Mr. Scrooge realizes it is “still Christmas Day!!!” And we can share in his pleasures making peace with all around him and his family.

Most of us know this holiday tale, but for MRT’s production it is Joel Colodner who takes us to London and lets us “know” Ebenezer Scrooge and brings us on his journey with the spirits on that Christmas eve so long ago.

–Gail Gauthier, Cohort

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A Christmas Carol runs November 29 – December 24

www.mrt.org/carol

COHORT REPORT: SEND MORE SKY

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s production of Silent Sky is simply radiant. A ring of soft lights circles the stage and another hangs over the performers, standing in for the stars and blinking brighter at a key moment. Onstage, lead Alexis Bronkovic echoes their glow. Her character Henrietta Leavitt is guided not by a desire for romance, but by her calling of astronomy. While a love interest does eventually appear, he’s a minor subplot. Henrietta’s work, her ideas, and her camaraderie with her coworkers are far more central to the plot.

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Victoria Grace and Alexis Bronkovic in SILENT SKY. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Another lovely way that that set informs the production is that it seems designed to suggest a telescope. The back of the stage is a small circular space lined with mirrors that is only inhabited by Henrietta’s sister Margaret, with whom she has a loving but contentious relationship. Several times while the two are separated, Margaret sits in that space, playing her piano and singing—and reflecting her light back at Henrietta. Even when they are distant stars in each other’s lives, they remain connected.

I love that the MRT followed up the very masculine play The Royale with this women-centric production, and I feel very lucky to have such high caliber theater right in my backyard.

–Amy Roeder, Cohort

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Silent Sky runs October 18 – November 12

http://www.mrt.org/sky