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Scrooge Variations

Different communities have different holiday traditions. At the White House in Washington, D.C. and in New York City they light huge Christmas trees. In downtown Bloomington the canopy of lights is lit and there's a theatre production spoofing Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol."

This year's spoof is a return engagement for Eric Pfeffinger's "Scrooge Variations" in a production directed by Richard Ford at the Bloomington Playwrights Project.

In Pfeffinger's version, the ghosts trying to reform Scrooge are an accident prone, futuristic bureaucratic organization of spirits. Kelly Bilski was the frustrated middle manager a.k.a. the ghost of Christmas future. Her problems began with an initial impassé as the bureau had mixed up its addresses and had the wrong man in the graveyard looking at Ebenezer Scrooge's grave stone. They progressed through a particularly hard-to-convince Scrooge, played by Phil Kasper. Despite Jeff Radue as the Ghost of Marley's willingness even to show off hidden birthmarks, Scrooge was unconvinced.

The main character of the "Scrooge Variations" continued to be an amusingly tough customer for Brian Hartz as the Ghost of Christmas Past and for Jeremy Cross as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The traditional scenes of Scrooge's visit to himself, Ian Martin, as a lonely school boy and to his old employer Fezziwig, Robert Wolanin, were full of unusual turns. The boy can actually see and talk with Scrooge and we see that the child was father to the man. Fezziwig is even more the boisterous celebrant than in the original. He's mixed up his dates and is insisting on celebrating Christmas in April.

Other memorable scenes from the "Scrooge Variations" are the Cratchit family as part of a TV sitcom complete with a laugh track punctuated their povertry stricken pathos and a Jerry Springer send up with Scrooges' nephew Fred and his wife nearly coming to blows.

As with any good set of variations, the "Scrooge Variations" begins with the theme of change for the better through experience and understanding and ends with it as well. It's fun to see Bloomington continuing to keep up the tradition of keeping Christmas with both feeling and humor.

You can see this and other WFIU theatre, film and opera reviews on our web site at WFIU dot Indiana dot edu.

You can see Eric Pfeffinger's "Scrooge Variations" at the Bloomington Playwrights Project Thursday, Friday and Saturday at eight and Sunday at two.

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