If the fact that the word “Disney” is now attached to Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol has got you down, chin up. Even latter-day Scrooge Robert Zemeckis and his mega-budget 3-D movie can’t cancel the spirit of this timeless story-at least not while John Blondell’s Lit Moon Theatre Company is around. Running now for its third consecutive year, and returning to Center Stage after last year’s Tea Fire disrupted its run, Humbug! is an ingenious and delightful version of Dickens’s tale that centers on the strength of the language-not special effects-to create holiday magic. Some compelling, decidedly low-budget puppets created by rising theatrical design star Jaco Connolly will join the small cast, which includes Sarah Halford, Victoria Finlayson, Stanley Hoffman, Kate Paulsen, and Jim Connolly.
What Blondell has done with the text demonstrates the rugged wisdom he has acquired through decades of painstaking work realizing the verbal nuance of Shakespeare and staging classic novels and short stories. Humbug! is at once simple and not quite straightforward, and, like the holidays, it is shot through with moments of heartbreaking lyricism and poignant tenderness. To give some idea of how Humbug! proceeds, let it be known that actress Sarah Halford will assay the role of Scrooge, and that the part of Tiny Tim will be played by a puppet made from a paper bag. This is no satire, however. In fact, if anything, the gender reversals and puppets are there to bring back some of the gravity and universality to a story that has been worn thin through years of cynical exploitation. About casting Tiny Tim as a doll, Blondell said that the effect “blows away the sentimentality” of the part, and opens the show onto the original work’s “deep time.”
Lit Moon’s Humbug! is at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo) on Saturday, December 12, at 4 and 7 p.m., on Friday, December 18, at 7 p.m., and on Saturday, December 19, at 4 and 7 p.m. For tickets and information, call 963-0408 or visit centerstagetheater.org.