Eric Pfeffinger’s comic take on Charles Dickens’ classic "Christmas Carol" in "The Scrooge Variations" begins portentously enough with a bed clothed figure urged on by a ghost to read a tomb stone. The awaked sleeper says, "Are these the shadows of things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?" Things seem to be in good traditional order in the Bloomington Playwrights Projects’ production until we learn that the bed clothed figure isn’t Ebenezer Scrooge, isn’t an "Scrooge" and isn’t even an "Ebenezer." Quicker than you can say "Jacob Marley," Kelly Ann Ford, as the much beleagured "Ghost of Christmas Future," is on her cell phone asking for research, a set change and some help with software. Thus begins what is a frequently funny, always thoughtful and sometimes hilarious hour and a half of theatre.
Geoff Wilson is very fine and funny as an irascible and darned hard to convince Scrooge.
Timothy Herron as a suitably ghastly old Marley along with Alex Shotts as a thoughtful and occasionally temporally confused Ghost of Christmas Past, Erik Anderson as a bluff and hearty Ghost of Christmas Present and even Dana Scott as the Ghost of Christmas Five Minutes Ago do their seriously comic best to persuade the old gentleman. You may recall that in his objections to the reality of Marley’s ghost, Dickens’ Scrooge, says that the senses are fooled by a few digestive problems. He mentions beef, mustard and potatoes. In "The Scrooge Variations," Scrooge goes on to suggest problems with a whole cafeteria and supermarket full of possibilities. There are so many that he puts Marley to sleep.
Throughout "The Scrooge Variations" characters from the original "Christmas Carol" appear in pretty much the usual order, but with enough twists and quirks that frequent laughter just kept erupting during the show. Old Scrooge actually got into a complex chat about cause and effect with Bradley Fisher as his young school boy self. The poor Cratchit family is such a crowd that they present themselves to the landlord as members of a traveling sports team. Clocks chime as many as thirteen times. Ghosts and images from the past, present and future come and go.
After much struggle and more than a few humorous detours, the miracle is worked out, Scrooge does learn what his true business is on earth. He takes Christmas into his heart and the festive cast gave all of the audience a little candy cane to add to the sweetness.
"The Scrooge Variations" by Erich Pfeffinger plays this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at eight with a two o’clock matinee on Saturday at the Bloomington Playwrights Project.