A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR THREE

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR THREE
adaptation by Tom Fulton from the novel by Charles Dickens

THE PLAIN DEALER
Cast of three delivers a cozy 'Christmas Carol' by Marianne Evett

If you have tired of all the spectacular versions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," but you still want to revisit this holiday classic, then "A Christmas Carol for Three" might be just what you need.

Put together by the Cleveland Theater Co. and presented through Dec. 18 upstairs at Cleveland State University's Factory Theater, it gives you pretty much all of Dicken's tale, using only three actors--Tom Fulton, Michelle Tucker and Wayne S. Turney.

The result is a cozy, literate evening that focuses on Dickens' gift for storytelling. Very little has been cut from the original. The narrative bits are handed around with considerable verve and one or another of the three actors takes on each character in the tale.

In fact, the evening's chief pleasure is watching Fulton metamorphose into so many different people, each clearly defined and unique. Looking like a younish Santa--round face, graying beard, receding hairline--he can still turn himself into Scrooge's eager young nephew Fred; the chilingly prophetic ghost of Jacob Marley, complete with blue light and chains; twinkling old Fezziwig; downtrodden but merry Bob Crachit; and a host of others.

Turney is back as Scrooge--a role he played for years at the Cleveland Play House in the '80s. Older now, he gets the opening meanness better. This is a stingy, petty, self-involved man. Then, with the advent of Christmas Past, he begins to get excited, lured by memory into confronting the life he has led. Turney takes us through Scrooge's journey with considerable skill.

But somehow the end, while merry, doesn't provide the exhilaration it should. Freed of the weight of materialism, Scrooge should seem lighter than air, transformed by joy. Turney doesn't communicate this ecstasy; he doesn't seem light enpough and his babylike laughter (although called for by Dickens) doesn't quite do it.

Tucker, who plays all the women, boys and a gentleman or two, is fetching and versatile

Once it gets going, this 'Carol' has an appealing intimacy...it is a pleasure to revisit this holiday classic in such a direct and intimate way.