Everybody knows how “A Christmas Carol” is going to end. Maybe that’s why they keep coming back.
Charles Dickens’ classic tale, which lives on in countless theatrical and film versions, gets another revival this holiday season at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro. It’s a version, though, that not everyone will immediately recognize.
That’s because Megan K. Pence, who is directing the show, has moved the setting forward nearly 100 years from 1840s London to 1930s America.
“I feel like the story centers so strongly about the concept of poverty,” Pence said. “I could draw a lot of parallels between Victorian London and America in the 1930s.”
So, out with the British accents and in with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. “The only changes we had to make were some specific language changes,” Pence said. “The changes that we made are not that different. It’s going to be a little bit of a surprise to see Scrooge in this world, to see these characters in a more recognizable time.”
That, however, will not change the essence of Dickens’ theme. “The story will feel the same,” Pence said. “We’re just moving it to a different time and place.”
In the Commonweal production, Ben Gorman plays Scrooge. Also in the cast are Abbie Cathcart, Elizabeth Dunn, Eric Lee and Lewis Youngren. Local kids are also in the cast: William and Vivienne Hoeltzle, of Canton, and Daniel and Isabelle Ekstrom, of Lanesboro.
The Commonweal stages its minimalist version of “A Christmas Carol” every few years; Pence, in fact, was in the 2012 production.
“Being part of that has given me some great insights into the script,” she said. “Now I have the opportunity to revisit it as a director, but knowing what the actors are going through.”
She has also discovered what generations of actors, directors and audiences have found: “A Christmas Carol” has a message that makes it eternally popular.
“I think for me, it’s about Scrooge himself,” Pence said. “People come back because they want to see the redemption. They want to see the hope in that for themselves, that we have the capacity for change within ourselves.”
Preview performances of “A Christmas Carol” are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 25, each followed by a post-performances discussion. The official opening is 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25.