Ebeneza | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Ebeneza 

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Players Workshop's Children's Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre.

We can ridicule A Christmas Carol, we can revile it, we can shun it, but we cannot deny its fundamental truth. In this Players Workshop's Children's Theatre variation on Charles Dickens's classic fable, Ms. Ebeneza Scrooge is a retail-store tycoon, Annie Scrooge is the daughter of Ebeneza's war-casualty brother, Roberta Cratchet is the management assistant whom Ebeneza "terminates" on Christmas Eve, and little Tina Cratchet is the invalid child who will not get the operation she needs now that her mother no longer has medical insurance. The Ghost of Christmas Past is garbed as a flower child, Christmas Present as a Springsteen-style rocker, and Christmas Future as a sneering street vampire. No matter how high the gimmicks are piled on, however, the simple message that even the most misanthropic sinner can be redeemed remains as touching and universal as when the story was first written.

This is not to say that the gimmicks aren't vastly entertaining: Linnea Forsberg's adaptation of the 1843 novella draws witty analogies between Dickens's time and our own. Charles Silliman's sprightly piano-synth accompaniment keeps the pace brisk and the action varied. And the cast, led by the rangy Rebecca Fisher as Scrooge (she's so mean "even her reflection can't look at her"), play their multiple roles with enthusiasm but never excess.

Some of Ebeneza's references--a parody of Beatles' lyrics, for example--may be more readily comprehensible to parents than to children, but neither group showed any signs of restlessness during the 60-minute show, and both stayed to participate in the interactive theater games afterward.

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