Ray Dooley Resurrects Dickens the Raconteur, Not Just the Novelist, in A Christmas Carol | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

Ray Dooley Resurrects Dickens the Raconteur, Not Just the Novelist, in A Christmas Carol 

Ray Dooley in A Christmas Carol

Photo by HuthPhoto Ghost Recon

Ray Dooley in A Christmas Carol

As a genial Ray Dooley stepped onstage last Thursday night, there were two distinct theatrical echoes in Kenan Theatre. The first was from 1998, the last time local audiences saw him in this one-person version of A Christmas Carol. The other was a century older.

Charles Dickens wasn't just a triumphant nineteenth-century novelist. He was also the biggest British popular entertainer to hit North America until The Beatles. Dickens's sold-out solo performances of his own works, including an abridged A Christmas Carol, wrapped ticket lines around blocks in New York and Boston. He presented them on unadorned stages, much like we see in the minimal but effective set in this production. Designer Jan Chambers's tasteful charcoal-colored dais pays understated tribute to the "platform performers" who kept audiences spellbound with their storytelling abilities alone.

We'd say it's unsurprising that Dooley, a PlayMakers veteran, achieves similar results here, but that would criminally minimize several feats. It wasn't enough for Dooley to just memorize the nearly thirteen thousand words in Milwaukee actor William Leach's adaptation. Dooley and director Michael Perlman then had to craft a ninety-minute show that didn't feel like a recital of forty-three single-spaced pages of text. That's tricky, and the pace slows at several points as Dooley negotiates Dickens's rich, descriptive prose.

The beginning of the show underlines the calculated risk Dickens took when he wrote his novella in 1843. With his family struggling, in desperate need of a hit, he chose a novel departure from the norm: a gothic ghost story with a Christmas twist. We can hear the author's barely sublimated anxiety in Dooley's measured voice as he utters the first words of Dickens's prologue, trying to reassure the readers of his time—and himself—that the "Ghost of an idea" in his "Ghostly little book" won't put his audience "out of humor with themselves ... the season, or with me."

With expert vocal and physical changes, Dooley shifts between his warm, anonymous narrator and a host of characters in the text. We meet a lean, vinegary Scrooge, a boisterous Ghost of Christmas Past, and an ambiguous Ghost of Christmas Present. Leach and Dooley's reading is deep enough to reacquaint us with vivid details lost in flimsier adaptations of this text, including the wider variety of spirits Marley rejoins, the warmth of Scrooge's past (contrasted by the coldness of his unmourned funeral), and other things that stir the soul in this often haunting production.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

Ive had the pleasure of working with members of the Blum family both on and offstage and I am constantly …

by Ruth Pancake Berry on A Successful Raleigh Theater Family Plays a Famous Historical One, the Kellers, in Seed Art Share’s Immersive The Miracle Worker (Theater)

this looks like they conflated sexual orientation with the astrological 7th house :)

by theseatree on Theatre Raleigh's Stellar Significant Other Puts the Perils of Being the "Gay Best Friend" on Blast (Theater)

Most Recent Comments

Ive had the pleasure of working with members of the Blum family both on and offstage and I am constantly …

by Ruth Pancake Berry on A Successful Raleigh Theater Family Plays a Famous Historical One, the Kellers, in Seed Art Share’s Immersive The Miracle Worker (Theater)

this looks like they conflated sexual orientation with the astrological 7th house :)

by theseatree on Theatre Raleigh's Stellar Significant Other Puts the Perils of Being the "Gay Best Friend" on Blast (Theater)

these people are a bunch a weirdos. and that's what we like about them.
i like a a performance …

by Geoff Dunkak on With The Changeling, Jaybird O'Berski Runs Amok Through a Quintessentially Problematic Seventeenth-Century Script and Leaves Us to Figure Out What to Make of It (Theater)

Point well taken. I wish more people had seen HE/SHE AND ME at The Womens' Theatre Festival, an intriguing original …

by Jerry Sipp on Plays About LGBTQ History Are Plentiful in the Triangle. We Need Them All. But Isn’t It Time to Look Ahead? (Theater)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation