Saturday, December 8, 2012

Art scene ~ A Christmas Carol ~ Black Box Theater ~ Cranston

Artists' Exchange Black Box Theater
50 Rolfe Square
Cranston, Rhode Island
December 6 - 22, 2012




The Artists' Exchange Black Box Theater is a storefront theater on Rolfe Square in Cranston, just down the street from the Park Theater. We'd heard of them last year, and wanted to check them out.

We went to the opening night of A Christmas Carol, and had a really nice time. The theater is tiny - only 25 seats - which creates a very intimate atmosphere with the performance. Since we had seats on the floor, we were literally sitting on the edge of the stage. And it really is a black box, although there's a nice cafe (with really good cider) attached to the theater.

Black Box Theater, Cranston
Black box set

Just prior to the performance, we learned that the theater will be moving down the street to 82 Rolfe Square and a larger performance space. We also discovered that Bear knows the cellist, Flannery Brown, who gave a beautiful solo of "Patapan" at one point during the show.

I didn't want to take pictures during the play, and unfortunately there are no photos from rehearsals on AE's site, so we're going to be a little short on images.

The play began with Marley as the narrator - a direction I hadn't seen before that was an interesting twist that allowed much more of Dickens' original prose to come out. Tom Chace, who played Marley, was very good. His mournful howls raised the hair on the back of my neck. He also (at least in makeup) bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln.

Bob Cratchit (Nicholas Viau) was a likable young man with a good voice and a very affable manner. Ebenezer Scrooge (Mark Carter) was not pinched and gaunt, the way I normally think of him, but had a quick and serious, irascible manner that fit the character well.

Between the scenes a chorus of young children sang carols. It was charming to watch, and many of them had very good voices. I'm thinking particularly of the young woman who sang O Holy Night in descant with two others. She also played Fred's sister-in-law in the party scenes, although according to the program it was two different girls. Regardless, she was a real standout.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Mia Ray) was a sparkly, spinning snow nymph sort of creature, with a knowing tone. And the little boy Scrooge (Richard Soucy) was adorable, despite not having any lines.

Another standout singer was Victoria Soucy, who played Fezziwig's daughter and sang in the same trio. She had a very pretty, operatic, in Bear's words, soprano. In the upper registers, her voice was very mature.

Tiny Tim was adorable and had a good accent. The program lists two names, Katherine Culhane and Samia Nash. I'm not sure which we saw, but she was very good.

Emily Carter gave an impressive performance as the charwoman who sold Scrooge's bedcurtains. She held her accent well, owned the stage but didn't overshadow the other actors.

Also of note was Meg Taylor-Roth's Mrs. Cratchit. Although a bit stiff with the dialog at first, she came right back, and her body language showed a real fondness and affection for her "family."

Bear and I really enjoyed the performance, although we found having Tiny Tim as the boy who gets half a crown for fetching the poulterer to be a small misstep. It made Bob's surprise at Scrooge's changed attitude later less believable, and we would have thought Scrooge would recognize him.

Nevertheless, the ending was uplifting and we left the theater feeling very good.

We had a very good time at the show, and appreciated the casting of child and challenged actors in some of the parts. It was clear they were having a good time, but also taking their roles seriously. I really liked the caroling between the scenes.

They'll be playing weekends for the next couple of weeks, and then at the Park Theater. It's definitely worth the time.

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