David McBean as Marley
A Christmas Carol at Cygnet is unique in that the book and lyrics were adapted by Cygnet co-founder Sean Murray, with music by frequent Cygnet collaborator Billy Thompson. This year marks the fifth the show has been running during the holidays.
What do we make of a transformative story such as A Christmas Carol? It’s a topic long debated. Some say Dickens removed the religious element and replaced it with a generic idea of a Christmas Spirit which is based on charity. Some say this is a straightforward story of Christianity and the redeeming power of Christian values such as charity.
Of course, most people say nothing about anything. They just like the story and don’t engage in debates regarding the origins of the modern Christmas or the ramifications of a secularized culture.
While we can’t resolve any arguments about the large-scale social repercussions of A Christmas Carol over the last 150 years, we can do a little character psychology.
Consider the characters we are presented in A Christmas Carol. They are each defined by a particular quality. Bob Cratchit is meek but not in the good way. Mrs. Cratchit is resentful. Tiny Tim is lame. Marley is cursed. Scrooge’s nephew Fred is optimistic. Christmas Past is nostalgic. Christmas Present is jolly. Christmas Future is ominous.
All of these one-dimensional characters conspire to transform Scrooge from a miser into a benefactor. If we look a little closer we see that the vast majority of these characters are negative. The only characters with a positive charge are Fred and maybe Christmas Present.
The message these characters are sending to Scrooge can be boiled down to, “You suck.” If we go one step further and consider that all of these one- dimensional characters are actually aspects of Scrooge’s personality then Scrooge’s message to himself is, still, “You suck.”
The entire story happens in one night and ends with Scrooge weeping in recognition of the terrible human being that he is. If you become a certain age, you will most definitely weep and mourn the person you could have been.
For most of us, that emotional release is enough and we go on sucking. Scrooge takes action upon his realizations. He changes for the better. At least for that one Christmas day. In all likelihood, Scrooge retains his Scrooge-ish tendencies going forward:
"Happy New Year, Cratchit. Get to work."
A Christmas Carol plays at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town through December 30, 2019.