STAGE REVIEWS : Season’s Readings : South Coast Rep’s Scrooge Is More Generous This Year
As Ebenezer Scrooge plunges headlong with the rest of us into an apparently nasty decade filled with omens of war and hard times, his redemption through generosity and kindness would seem to have a special significance.
Whatever the reason, Hal Landon Jr. has turned serious as Charles Dickens’ notorious miser. He brings a far more provocative dimension to his perennial starring role in South Coast Repertory’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” than the caricature depicted last year.
Landon remakes Scrooge into a tragic figure of sorts, eliminating last year’s giddy baby talk in a climactic second-act scene that trivialized the meaning of the play. But his deepened performance is not matched by the company.
The romantic by-play between young Ebenezer and Belle--one of last year’s more appealing digressions--is totally lost. Richard Soto is wooden as young Ebenezer. Lucy Rodriguez not only lacks delicacy as Belle, but manages the seemingly impossible feat of swallowing her words while delivering them with stentorian flourish.
Richard Doyle brings the requisite joviality to the role of Fezziwig and gives us a bawdy, less feral portrait of the Faganesque Joe.
The party scenes have lost some radiance, though John-David Keller’s staging is lively and Dwight Richard Odle’s costumes colorfully authentic. The technical pizazz is there, including special effects that elicit audience shrieks.