Charles Dickens’ venerable “A Christmas Carol” has by now such a familiar narrative arc that any alterations are happily accommodated. B Street Theatre producing artistic director Buck Busfield has nipped, tucked and refashioned the garment to fit one of his performing mainstays – Greg Alexander – and the results are pleasing all around.
Busfield takes the traditional Ebenezer Scrooge (the agreeably grumpy Alexander) and transports him to a humorous parallel meta-theater world where his well-known story more or less plays out but differently than the original.
The play debuted last year in the smaller B2 proscenium space and transitions this year to the 3/4-thrust configuration of the main stage. Busfield’s clever hook here finds Scrooge aware of and incredibly bored with the one-night-a-year redemption spectacle which he stars in. Rather than endure the hackneyed, tiresome journey through the past, Scrooge tries to skip the whole deal and cut to the happy ending. The other characters try to tell him he can’t really do that, but Scrooge is resolute, and the play lurches along.
Despite Scrooge thinking he knows where the trail leads, the scenes are a bit off and not quite what he anticipates. When he questions the other actors, he’s told the production is working with a new script based on Dickens’ first manuscript before his editors changed some details to make it more cuddly. Later Scrooge is told the new version includes Dickens’ rewrites, which came too late for the popular published version of the story.
The multicharacter playing ensemble of Amy Kelly, Tara Sissom, John Lamb and Kurt Johnson pull off a variety guises and accents, while director David Pierini and a diverting scene change crew keep everything light and airy.
While the new Busfield version has more of a jokey comedic kick than most “Carols” you’ll see, it also has a little less holiday heart. The critical scenes of Scrooge’s past, which root both him and us in what he’s lost, are missing, as is the celebratory present with nephew Fred and the loving Cratchit family. Alexander’s Scrooge does get caught up, though, in the spirit of something greater than himself, and he gets redeemed in spite of himself.
A Christmas Carol
What: Buck Busfield’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ chestnut into a charming contemporary comedy. With Greg Alexander as Ebenezer Scrooge and an ensemble featuring John Lamb, Amy Kelly, Tara Sissom and Kurt Johnson
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays through Dec. 31.
Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
Information: 916-443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org
Time: One hour and 35 minutes, including one intermission