Dallas Theater Center reaches joyous new heights with the final production of Richard Hellesen's adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
Since 2005, a barrage of clanging clocks has opened the beloved holiday show in the Kalita Humphreys and the novella's classic opening lines are declared loudly. "Old Marley was dead as a door-nail."
But this year director Joel Ferrell draws stark contrasts on either side of the story's redemption arc, with a crueler Ebenezer Scrooge (Chamblee Ferguson) and spooky ghost story that begins with Marley's visit.
Hellesen's adaptation calls for ghost scenes darker than many versions of the story—Marley's chains also fall with an ominous clang. But Brian Gonzalez's turn in the bedroom confrontation seems more menacing than previous years. His repetition of the lines, "I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere" rings with a disconcerting restlessness and weariness—the doom of Scrooge.
The play's happier characters demonstrate an inverse jubilation. A heartier Mr. Fezziwig (Hassan El-Amin) employs young Scrooge (Alex Ross), as the Ghost of Christmas Past (a delightful Blake Hackler) leads him through his life as a young man. And his nephew Fred (a spot-on Lee Trull) hosts a more riotous party, as the Ghost of Christmas Present (Liz Mikel) guides him.
The only scenes that miss the mark are the Cratchitt Family. Despite an affably downtrodden Steven Walters, the family lacks any cohesive affection. In the scenes meant to draw a portrait of a hopeful family, they seem disconnected; even Tiny Tim's wig looks ill-fitting.
As Scrooge, Ferguson balances nostalgia and bitterness during scenes when he watches his former self fall in and then out of love with Belle (Tiffany Hobbs). As the ghosts repeat his own callous words to him, he winces under their weight. And his joy is contagious as he recognizes his second chance.
The final production of Hellesen's work mines the work for thematic elements with a renewed vigor. Next year will be an all-new production at the Wyly Theatre and though this version will be missed—in its final year A Christmas Carol reaches a new level of refinement.