REVIEW: Puppetry, Loneliness, and Family in Manual Cinema’s ‘Christmas Carol’

Manuel Cinema, a studio known for its combination of shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music design, presents its adaptation of A Christmas Carol that artfully melds the iconic story of Ebenezer Scrooge with the contemporary situation of COVID-19. Dropping the English accents, this crisp-and-swift 60-minute adaptation succeeds in feeling both relevant and refreshing while staying faithful to the essence of the well-known story. To do this, the story introduces us to Aunt Trudy (N. LaQuis Harkin), a woman who has lost her husband to COVID-19 but decides to continue his storytelling holiday tradition of puppeting the story of A Christmas Carol.

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REVIEW: ‘A Christmas Carol In the Dark’ Brings the Classic Tale Back to Its Ghostly Roots at Theatre in the Dark

I sat in my living room with my candles burning, lights dim, and a warm sugary cup filled with flavored tea, as suggested by the production team, and intently listened to the Theatre In The Dark’s A Christmas Carol. In this 70 minute live audio play, I was whisked away into the inhospitable world of Ebenezer Scrooge, guided by only my imagination and a team of talented actors and audio engineers .

Western culture is obsessed with adapting different versions of A Christmas Carol throughout the years, whether through the means of big spectacle plays, large budget films, or even comic books. However, as I’ve grown I’ve found that with every passing year I somehow still love this tale for its striking relevancy even as the holidays and I become more estranged from one another — as I’ve grown older and more cynical, and as they’ve grown more commercialistic and vapid year by year. This A Christmas Carol stays true to the same classic holiday ghost story written by Charles Dickens that has lived on for hundreds of years. This production doesn’t try to change the words, reimagine, or re-adapt the original because it doesn’t need to. It only strips down the well-known story to create a complex radio play that feels like a thrilling tale told around a fire. Theatre In The Dark even encourages its audience to have virtual listening parties for the performance to allow communal connection with others.

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