Personal Space Theatrics' version of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol is not a play to sit and watch, but one to sit and experience. Audience members will find themselves ducking the lanterns of marching Christmas carolers while inching away from scurrying townspeople dropping plastic apples that threaten to roll under their chairs. Small children jump into their mothers' laps when asked by beggars if they have any money to spare, and those in the front row brace themselves every time Scrooge abruptly turns to face a ghost, giving those in his vicinity a good whip in the face with his coattails. While this in-your-face approach to storytelling may initially cause some to cringe, it later proves to be the play's most powerful method of transporting the audience from their modern-day seats to the 19th-century streets. As a viewer, you have no choice but to watch, listen, and react as the story spills off the stage and into your lap. You are in Bob Cratchit's shoes getting screamed at for being late, and in the midst of the annual Christmas party with lip-locked guests passionately kissing. When a chain-clad Bob Marley bursts onstage, Scrooge is not the only one screaming in surprise.
The stage itself is a black floor with audience members seated along the sides and back in folding chairs. There is even a row of chairs placed next to the production's skilled piano player, who performs classic holiday tunes beneath the glow of candlelight. The air is thick with mood. You feel Scrooge's goodness when he is young, his anger as he matures, and his grief when he realizes what he has become.
Townspeople traipsing about the theater with brooms and aprons recite each important plot moment and scene setting in Greek chorus fashion. The careful articulation each line receives from its speaker does great justice to the original text. These are the words of Charles Dickens with no frills or extra dialogue added, clearly spoken, with soft background music to emphasize their importance.
In this respect, Personal Space Theatrics does something that many extravagant theater companies with dazzling special effects and big actors struggle to: tell the story the way Dickens meant it to be told. In this Christmas Carol there are no fireworks or flying ghosts, but amazing acting, hypnotizing scenes, and beautifully sung Christmas melodies woven expertly throughout the narrative.
When the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to his nephew's holiday party, he witnesses an amazing battle of vocals between his nephew Fred (Michael Poignand) and another guest known as Topper (Kent Le Van). Both men hold high notes for so long that the walls shake with their melody while the audience stares wide-eyed, wondering how long their chords will last.
If you are not smiling by the time Scrooge is, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future will lock eyes with you and grin winningly until you do. Those who love A Christmas Carol will find heaven in this telling of it. Those who hate it will find themselves fully converted by its magic faster than Scrooge can say, "Bah, humbug."