Playwright Mark Brown poses the question: “Can Scrooge learn yet another life lesson?” with his holiday farce The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge. The play revolves around Old Scrooge charging Jacob Marley and the Christmas Spirits with trespassing, kidnapping, assault and battery. The stakes are not enormously high here; how much can be emotionally invested in a lawsuit against a bevy of ghosts? But uniformly solid acting and a clever surprise ending provide enough fun to send us out into the Seattle winter night with a good amount of holiday cheer.
The script is able to employ a lot of Dickens’ original text. It is almost as if Brown has deconstructed A Christmas Carol and reassembled it for his play. A very Scrooge-like Judge Stanchfield R. Pearson (Steve Manning) oversees the court proceedings. He is stingy with his coal allowance for the courtroom’s heating stove and treats his Bailiff (Larry Albert) rather harshly. Perhaps he too is up for a learning experience on this Christmas Eve.
The action takes place the year after Scrooge has had his harrowing encounter with Jacob Marley and his crew. Scrooge is intent on teaching a lesson to these uninvited guests. Nolan Palmer shines in the role of Dickens’ notorious miser. He is by turns quick witted, droll and finally quite touching as Scrooge examines the amazing adventures he was forced to experience the previous year.
The work of Faith Bennett Russell and Anastasia Higham provides a highlight for the evening. The two assume seven different roles and delineate the characters with well-chosen touches, helping make each woman they play uniquely individual. Russell’s character Sara Wainwright reminds the audience that the fate of the homeless was as important a concern for 1844 London as it is today. Higham is particularly impressive as she moves from the coquettish Ghost of Christmas Past to Scrooge’s disappointed ex-girl friend Belle.
Daniel Stoltenberg plays the warm-hearted nephew Fred and the monstrous Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The play provides a few surprises for both these characters as the court case proceeds. Brown has a Jewish lawyer (Bill Johns) take up the defense for the ghosts. It is an interesting ploy, but not much is really done with the role in the plotline.
Director Scott Nolte maintains a lively pace as we pretty much zip through the highlights of Dickens’ novella. The final twist of the play emphasizes what Nolte describes in his director’s notes as a “call to live the spirit of Christmas—to be caring and generous all year long.” Not a bad sentiment to hold on to after our brutal political season.
The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge plays through December 30 on the Jewell Mainstage at the Taproot Theatre, 204 N 85th Street, in the heart of Greenwood. Tickets are on sale online at www.taproottheatre.org/buy-tickets/, through Taproot Theatre’s Box Office by calling 206-781-9707 or by visiting the Box Office located at the front of the theatre.