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At Citadel Theatre: New version of 'A Christmas Carol' is short and to the point

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'A Christmas Carol' at Citadel Theatre

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Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” is boiled down to the basics in a new adaptation by playwright Margaret Lewis. At Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest now through Dec. 29, 2013, Lewis’ interpretation is a shortened version that spotlights milestones that were more like heavy millstones in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge.

As actress Ellen Phelps, wife of Citadel Theatre Company founder Scott Phelps, said in a brief interview, “It explains how Scrooge became the person he was.”

Adults have likely gotten the message every time they have seen “A Christmas Carol,” but this version might arguably hit home to youngsters as they watch Scrooge, expertly interpreted by Matthew Hallstein, begins to regret past actions and understands that he can change from miser to a caring, giving person.

Lewis’ version works as a morality play, but Marley’s summing up of the moral at the end seems like over-kill except for very young audiences.

Except of Hallstein, actors play multiple roles. Citadel regular Dan Deuel is a perfect Marley and “old Fezziwig.” Clare Cooney beautifully interprets the Ghost of Christmas Past and is a fine, though unrecognizable in a black shroud, as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Ross Frawley is a delightfully jolly but commanding Ghost of Christmas Present and plays a Benevolent Gentleman.

Scenery and their changes were better in Citadel’s traditional “A Christmas Carol” production two years ago. However, the current production’s set design works given the shortened views of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. In both productions, imaginative use of the apron and aisles brought the audience closer to the action.

Citadel’s current show, a world premiere directed by Shifra Werch, will work for audiences with short sitting power (running time about 1 ½ hours with 10 minute intermission) and as an introduction to Dickens’ holiday gift about generosity, good will and the ability to change.

Details: “A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 29, 2013. For tickets and information visit Citadel Theatre or call 847-735-8554. Citadel Theatre is at a Lake Forest School District campus at 825 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL 60045.

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