Peg, our cousin Lindy and I enjoyed Lakewood Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol – More or Less. It’s about a small theatre company in a smallish town performing the classic tale of A Christmas Carol. After picking up our tickets, popcorn, and a few cookies, we took our seats and waited. The chocolate chip cookie is our favorite but Lindy preferred the Snickerdoodle – FYI. The stage was the actual backstage and the stage. We could see, crammed in and scattered about, a very busy backstage with costumes, props, furniture as well as the equipment. Most theatrical companies never have enough room. We could even see into the attic, with even more stuff and already full.
Lakewood Playhouse board member James Venturini welcomed us and told us of the upcoming season offerings. As he walked away Sarah Diangelo Cunningham (Laurice Roberts) stepped forward and finished the introduction by disclosing that the land where the first peoples have lived efficiently over centuries is our host. Sarah also noted that A Christmas Carol has become a holiday staple for theatres everywhere and then announces that there would be a slight delay before the production begins.
This begins a dialog behind the scenes and on the stage that captures us both as an audience of the Cunningham family’s dilemma and as the audience of A Christmas Carol – More or Less.
Husband Charles Cunningham (Tim Takechi) has told Sarah of his intention to move to Los Angeles, where he can make real money writing movie scripts. It’s her decision to come along, or not. The show’s problem is only exacerbated by the additional news that the cast and crew of tonight’s show are stranded at a ski resort and all flights have been canceled. Capitalizing on Charlie’s remarkable memory, Sarah blackmails him into doing the play with her as a duo, relying on scripts when needed. He plays Scrooge; she plays everyone else.
As the performance proceeds, they actually manage to perform much of the play, with their personal story invading the Dickens tale to give it dual levels of meaning. It’s a very clever take on the standard Christmas Carol – showing both Scrooge’s travails with the spirits that echoes the Cunningham family’s dilemma.
A favorite scene is of the Crachitt family at their Christmas dinner. Each beloved member is represented by a hanger of clothes draped on each one’s chair. Bob Crachitt, Scrooge’s overworked and under paid clerk, speaks lovingly to each family member. Sara has to scramble around the chairs, lift the hangers and become each one, with comments, some relating to their real-life experience. You can tell Charles delights in poking her as a way of getting back at her for making him take part in the play.
A Christmas Carol – More or Less was the Lakewood Playhouse debut of the excellent Laurice Roberts (the stage manager and all other characters except Scrooge and a surprise spirit at the end), came across as caring, concerned and loving. She’s appeared on other Northwest stages including two at Tacoma Little Theatre.
Tim Takechi in addition to his nuanced arrogant and transformed performance here, has numerous credits to his name around the Pacific Northwest, but we’ve only seen him once at his mom’s theatre (Dukesbay Productions) in Waltz of the Toreadors. He returns for A Christmas Carol . . . More of Less after two years of not being on stage.
Director Jeanette Sanchez works at Lakewood Playhouse as stage manager and teaching artist. Costume Designer Viginia Yanoff has worked on various shows for Lakewood Playhouse for more than twenty years. Stage Manager Ashley Winrod moved here from the Bay Area for her first show with the Lakewood Playhouse.
Like the classic A Christmas Carol, this version also makes you think and consider your own goals and relationships.
For tickets, raffle tickets and other information, go to: www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/