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The Metropolitan, San Andreas

Play review: Comfy 'Carol' hits the right notes

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Zie Harmon plays a glamorous Ghost of Christmas Past in Fourth Wall Entertainment Troupe's production of "A 1940's Christmas Carol," playing this weekend at the Metropolitan in San Andreas. 

If the hustle and bustle of the season has got you wondering if there's anything fun left to do in these crazy times, the Fourth Wall Entertainment Troupe has you covered. Its production of "A 1940's Christmas Carol," at The Metropolitan in San Andreas, has just the right amount of holiday hurrahs and heartfelt meaning to leave you with a comfy smile on your face.

Director Cyndie Klorer has adapted the Charles Dickens tale of a miserly old curmudgeon with absolutely no holiday spirit into a cheerful tale of redemption that really provides warmth in these trippy times. Yes, you have seen this show before, but not quite like this.

A cast of 17 community theater actors appears as the familiar characters, and most of the players perform several different roles throughout the show. What gives this production some oomph is the setting: 1940s New York. Instead of a grumpy financial kind of adviser, the lead character, Ebenezer Scrooge, runs Marley and Scrooge Munitions. The details of this change from the original play are highlighted throughout the early parts of the show, and they actually give it a timeliness that I didn't expect.

I won't continue with much of the plot since it's so familiar, but as the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's late partner in the firm, arrives to notify the grump that his Christmas Eve is going to be quite different from those before, the old guy very quickly begins to notice the error of his early ways.

As Marley, both alive in previous years and dead as the ghost who heralds the haunted night before Christmas, Chance Tillery is both creepy and moustache-twizzling fun. He definitely grinds into the creep factor as the ghost, angrily telling Scrooge that his night is going to be quite memorable. Alive, his Marley is both charming to a fault and, truthfully, quite nefarious.

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Chance Tillery plays the Ghost of Jacob Marley, with Stephen Daly as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Zie Harmon flits about as the Ghost of Christmas Past, showing Scrooge how he has disappointed many in his circle of family and, well, initially, friends. Scenes from years past effectively drive the sadness of Ebenezer's ways into us, and him.

Particularly good in the past is Sam Shelton, who cleverly adapts the mannerisms of the elder Ebenezer, played by Stephen Daly, into a bright young man who is very eager to please those around him. He is also very good when Belle, played by Emma Darmsted, catches Ebenezer's eye early on. Watch Daly as the love of Scrooge's life is replayed for him, too.

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Dylan O'Shea, left, and Emma Darmsted perform a dance.

Dylan O'Shea is the Ghost of Christmas Present, demonstrating to Ebenezer that those around him are actually fairly happy during this holiday, even though they might not be as financially well-off as Scrooge. He does this with a kind of fabulousness we've never seen in this spectre. And Shelton returns, in a decidedly dour costume, to haunt Scrooge as the Ghost of Christmas Future. He does so without a single spoken word, just like we've seen before, and that costume really adds to the gut punch.

Another shift in this production comes within the Cratchit household, where Bob, the father, is not seen. Rather, his wife, Emily, holds the homefront together, and Trista Behm is both sweet and strong in this role, supporting a family almost single-handedly on a pauper's pittance.

It's at this point that I will congratulate Mr. Daly on a fine performance in a tricky role. You can feel his exuberance as the miser is redeemed, and that's when your heart starts to soften from within. His jaunty movements keep you giggling as he welcomes everyone to a bright Christmas morning.

Klorer further fuels the convivial community spirit in this show by having cast members sing carols between most of the scenes. A couple of these get a bit clunky toward the end (Scrooge's bed must weigh a ton!), but everything turns out fine, especially because most of the younger players enjoy the singing so much. And, the audience is encouraged to join in throughout the show, so don't be afraid to exercise your baritone or soprano singing voice.

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A choir sings Christmas carols during the show.

This is not a heavy, dramatic performance of a classic Christmas tale; it's a comfortable, generous yarn performed by actors who are clearly enjoying themselves and like giving the audience a sweet treat for the season. The production ends this weekend with shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so if you're in the mood for some fun with your friends and neighbors, get your tickets now.

 “A 1940's Christmas Carol"

7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

The Metropolitan, 59 Main St., San Andreas

$15 or $10 for children and seniors at (209) 754-5555

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