Christmas Carol

Last night, I went to the opening night of A Christmas Carol, sitting beside my husband who had played Scrooge for at least four years about ten years ago in this production at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey.

It is unlikely, due to Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease, that he could still act a huge theater role like Ebenezer Scrooge. We reminisced in the car about how he was making the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Village at the same time he was in Princeton performing as Scrooge.

Chris as Scrooge, watching himself as a boy.

Acting is an art, like painting or playing the cello. But in the US, unlike maybe Russia, the performing arts get short shrift in a culture that worships celebrities (and then delights in their demise).

Acting is hard work. It is physical labor. It is not putting on make up and posturing. It requires depth of emotion and focus and athleticism.

In this production, Chris as Scrooge flew down from the rafters and flew back up again. He foisted Tiny Tim on his shoulder and jumped on the bed. (He particularly disliked having to do those last two things.)

So watching the show last night, I think Chris felt pride in his past work, but also sadness, and a sense of letting go, a resignation to having physical limitations.

I have seen this production at the McCarter a billion times. Still, it makes me cry. Why? Because, like Scrooge, I discover again the reality that we are made to love another, not to dismiss our loving tendencies by criticizing Christmas or other people. I remember that I am mortal and my time is limited. I must seize this day. There is so much joy in the scene when Scrooge realizes it is not too late to live — never too late to love.

The play is so good. This adaptation by Tommy Thompson is beautiful and simple and elegant, as is the direction by Michael Unger.

Chris has recently had a lovely success with a play he translated, Cherry Orchard by Checkhov at the Classic Stage Company, so I don’t think he was not sitting in the audience wondering, Why aren’t I up there, playing Scrooge?

I drove back and forth from the city. Chris fell asleep, off and on in the passenger seat beside me. When we talked, I told him, “You have had a great life in the theater and I’m so glad I got to see so much of it.” And yes, his theater life continues in a different direction.

My take-away from last night? Be like Scrooge, seize the day, buy the biggest turkey, jump on the bed. Or be like us, see a play, reminisce, have a life in the theater, have dinner with friends, (thanks KP and Wayne!).

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