Driftwood Players

"A Christmas Carol" December 1979

By Charles Dickens, Directed by Michael Sturm


Pictures by
Jim Bates

From The Daily World, December 1979

 'A Christmas Carol' is delightful program

World Arts Editor

Christmases happen in the lives of most of us, I suspect, when it's not only impossible to believe that there is a Santa Claus, but it's also very difficult to care one way or the other.

If you know someone like that, do him-her a favor and take or send her-him to "A Christmas Carol" at the Driftwood Theater in Hoquiam.

The Driftwood Players production opened on a dismal, windy, wet Friday night quite unlike a Christmas-card, Santa Claus-type evening. But when the almost-capacity audience (its size a surprise considering the foul weather) streamed out into the lobby when the play was over, an extraordinary thing had happened. Christmas had come.

In little more than an hour, the audience had despised the skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge, had sorrowed for his downtrodden clerk, Bob Cratchit, had laughed with his light-hearted nephew Fred, felt horror at the terrible fate of his dead partner Jacob Marley, had begun to sympathize with the lonely miser, had wept with the Cratchit family at Tiny Tim's death -- and finally rejoiced with the reformed and rejuvenated Scrooge as his prayers for a second chance were answered.

After all, is the message of Christmas not hope? And if the 19th century English miser Scrooge can change to become a loving and loved human being, is there not hope for all of us?

Of course, the tremendous empathy that "turned on" the audience did not come by happenstance. It required some good acting performances, especially by Ernie Ingram, carrying Scrooge from his thoroughly despicable contempt for humans ("Let them die, it will reduce the excess population") through horror, sad and happy remembrance, repentance and rebirth, Ingram, with dozens of Driftwood roles creditably done, can be proud of recreating one of Charles Dickens' very favorite characters.

He was aided by Mike Huff as Bob Cratchit, Ron Carlson as nephew Fred, Bud Eddy as a blood-curdling Marley's Ghost, Patty Bonnell as the lovely spirit of Christmas Past, Bill Davis doubling as Kind-hearted Mr. Fezziwig and the Spirit of Christmas Present, Robert Slater as the lonely young Scrooge and Krista Richters as his sister.

The small roles included some well-known names, like Valentina Pearson and her ghoulish charwoman selling the dead Scrooge's best shirt to Jack Shrauger, playing a sort of traveling pawnbroker.

But there were many relative newcomers recruited from small parts in recent plays -- Bill Garrison, Frances Bigler, Denice Button, Doug wesselman, Middie Johnson, Russell Hart, plus names that are entirely unfamiliar but that we may hope will return: Eric Olsen, Annice Hogsette, Mark Pinckney (playing double fantasy role), Brian Johnson, Vicki Prescott, Jane Bateham, Amy Dick, and a bevy of children -- Jim Welch, Pat Gibbons, Lisa Thompson, Lite Evans, Amy King, Sarah Keiser and Tari Hayes.

And of course, Rebekah Keiser, as sweet-faced and frail-looking a Tiny Tim as one could wish for.

Special effects added much to the production -- swirling fog as ghosts came and went, eerie and discordant background "music to haunt by," special makeup for spirits, a suddenly-appearing gravestone, a disappearing corpse and, as the final touch for the curtain call, "snowflakes" drifting gently down upon the assembled cast.

Director Michael Sturm and Gloria Ingram, his assistant, as usual produced a fast-paced, yet sensitive play, and they share credit for the ingenuous special effects with makeup master Mae Brook, Ray Phillips, Jennifer Sturm, Bill Davis (who designed the imaginative multipurpose set), Phyllis Jones and others.

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