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REVIEW: "Ebenezer"

Williamston Theatre

Hope triumphs in Zettelmaier's Christmas tale

By Bridgette M. Redman

Posted: Nov. 24, 2012 at 8:45 p.m.

There is a battle fought every year during the Christmas season. It is the battle between cynicism and hope. Between cruelty and kindness. Between tragedy and miracles. Between darkness and light.

It is this battle that ignites all good Christmas classics and makes us burn with appreciation for them. Joseph Zettelmaier's newest play, "Ebenezer," lights a candle on the side of hope while poignantly showing how much darkness is left to be exposed.

Ebenezer picks up the famous story of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" fifteen years after Scrooge's encounter with the ghosts of Christmas. Life has changed for him, the other characters of the story and the world itself. He is better known than ever before, because it is his efforts that keep alive every charity in London, and he doesn't let a day go by where he doesn't take the opportunity to be kind and generous. But not even goodwill can keep an old body alive forever, and Scrooge's days are coming to an end.

The trio of actors, directed by John Lepard in this world premiere, create Zettelmaier's characters in a way that sets the bar high for future performers. And there is little doubt this is a play that will become a favorite holiday production for regional theaters.

Arthur J. Beer provides a classic Scrooge, one who could be equally comfortable in any production of the Dickens tale, only this is a Scrooge who has learned how to laugh, be charming, and to constantly smile. Beer exemplifies what a life transformed looks like, and the transformation is both deep and complete. He never wavers, even when confronted with hopelessness and darkness. His is an unfailing faith that is stronger for knowing what it is like to be on the other side.

Alysia Kolascz plays Scrooge's nurse, one Alice Poole. The physical conditions of her life have been transformed because of Scrooge's generosity, but she is still brittle and lonely, unable to let go of the pain she has experienced.

Tiny Tim, played by Joseph Seibert, has grown up and joined the British navy, his life changed in many ways first by Scrooge's influence, and then by what he witnesses in the Confederate states amidst the Civil War. His love for "Uncle" Scrooge is apparent, though like Alice, it has yet to fully transform him.

Kolascz and Seibert are especially adept at switching between characters and times, recreating scenes that have greatly influenced them and which brings to forefront the conflict between despair and hope. They easily switch accents, facial expressions and movement styles, never leaving any doubt of which characters they are playing at any given time. Kolascz impresses when she plays the earlier version of herself, wheezing and bent over, as close to death then as Scrooge is now.

Together, the three form a tight bond that is touching and transformative. Their humor and charm help bring to life Zettelmaier's touching tale, one that is an excellent way to launch the holiday season.

Yes, there is still darkness and division in the world. But that doesn't mean kindness and love has failed, only that we need it more than ever.

SHOW DETAILS: "Ebenezer" continues at Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston, Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 23. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. Tickets: $20-25. For information: 517-655-7469 or www.WilliamstonTheatre.org.

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