John Forkner in Reid Farringtons’s A Christmas Carol at Abrons Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Abrons Arts Center
Reid Farrington’s A Christmas Carol starts off spooky. The Abrons Arts Center stage is lit by glowing candles, further hushed by red velvet drapes, a coffin stands facing the audience, with a shadowy head at its tip. Even before the production begins, I get the feeling that eyes from the head are looking at me. The audience is being watched.
The show starts with a moan, as the deathly face bursts to life, revealing actor John Forkner, the narrator of our tale. With perfect pomp and a dash of sardonic wit, he opens a large book to read this legendary Christmas tale of Scrooge. Holding the pages open toward the audience so we can see vivid projections of moving images, Forkner recites.
The story comes to life as Everett Quinton hobbles onstage as the miserly Scrooge, a character who is the antithesis of holiday cheer. Quinton is brilliant and unique, wearing a constant scowl that seems set in the very fibers of his face. He is his own Scrooge but many others, throughout the trippy performance, are projected over the characters’ faces on sliding screens and slates. From the Muppets to Bill Murray, multiple versions and enactments of the classic story are illuminated over the principal characters, creating both a feeling of vertigo and consumption.
Reid Farrington’s A Christmas Carol. Photo via Abrons Arts Center.
“Bah Humbug!” As much as I hate it when Christmas arrives in November, (can’t we just enjoy Thanksgiving?) it’s hard not to highlight downtown theater legend Everett Quinton’s turn as our favorite holiday curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge, in Reid Farrington’s A Christmas Carol at Abrons Arts Center.
Given his background in new media (a la the world-renowned Wooster Group), Farrington’s Carol conjures up Dickens’ memorable ghosts of the past, present and future in a “Victorian-era phantasmagoria” that promises to mash together over one hundred years of film history with live theater. Thirty-five different film versions of A Christmas Carol are projected on stage using a “modern-day version of the magic lantern, colliding and combining with the live performers.” Watch out for images of your favorite Scrooge including cameos from Mr. Magoo, The Muppets and Bill Murray.
Brandon Olson as Joey Girdler (center) and cast members in the World Premiere of The Etiquette of Death. Photo by Ves Pitts
Death can be uproarious. The macabre is celebrated in The Etiquette of Death, the final show in La Mama’s 50th anniversary run. Gaudy, glitzy, glamorous and demented, the musical comedy pits Joan Girdler (Chris Tanner), an over the top cosmetics saleswoman who is somewhat famous in the beauty circles, against Death (Everett Quinton), a bawdy queen who is both enamored of Joan’s work and also out to usher her and her melancholic, invalid son (Brandon Olson) into the afterlife.