Encore Michigan

Wilde Theatre warms audiences with ‘Ebenezer’

Review December 17, 2021 Julie Linderleaf

BRIGHTON, MI – Ever wonder what happened after that wild, crazy, strange, and life-changing Christmas Eve in London in the 1800s for the classic Christmas fictional character: Ebenezer Scrooge?

Joseph Zettelmaier, award-winning Michigan playwright, must have when he wrote this riff on the Charles Dickens’s  “A Christmas Carol” classic: Ebenezer.

The show ran December 3-12 in Brighton’s up-and-coming theater company’s, The Wilde Theatre, in their newly remodeled space, no longer sharing their location inside the Brighton Coffee and Theater.

Owner Lynn Wilde Concannon, has set up her Wilde Theatre in a new location on South West Street in downtown Brighton.

Ebenezer was a perfect choice for the second production in the WildeTheater’s five show season. With a cast of only three, the small stage was simply set by set designer, Gwen Lindsay, with a bed dressed all in white bedding, an antique sofa, and a small side table. A door nook was added for entrances and a large picture window and an old-fashioned candle decorated Christmas tree was set far off the stage adding an extension make-shift stage and acting area. This set was primarily Scrooge’s final home in a nursing home.

Ebeneezer Scrooge, expertly played by Mike Olsem, spends his final Christmas Eve waiting for the return of the spirits that once visited him that fateful night 15 years prior when he decided to change his miserly, cruel ways for a life of good deeds and happy moments.  “A life changes because you choose to change it” – wise words uttered during the show to explain that in those 15 years, Scrooge did good deed after good deed and became a man that everyone wanted to be and would desperately miss after his death.

He is cared for by a nurse named Alice Pool, played by Celah Convis. As she cares for him, she reassures him that it will not be his final evening and tries to keep him as comfortable as possible. We learn more about her story as the play moves along: she is more than just Scrooge’s nurse. She was once helped by the newly changed Scrooge and he saved her life when she was living on the street.

We also meet another blast from Scrooge’s past, Tiny Tim, now all grown up and healed from rickets, determined now to be called Timothy, played by Joe Gaskill. We see that Scrooge’s kindness even touches Timothy as he joins the Royal Navy so he too can reach out and make a difference in other’s lives. He is the first late night visitor to Uncle”Scrooge on this late night Christmas Eve. Gaskill displays all the right complex emotions that Timothy is suffering as he realizes that the world is not all good and can be quite “black-hearted” at times, especially in America. It is showcased through memory flashbacks that put Timothy overseas in America where Ms. Convis also plays an American character, Helen, who is caught helping the wrong side and executed.

Ms. Convis and Mr. Gaskill tackle their British characters with thoughtful thoroughness with good accent work. Ms. Convis even swings into a southern American accent as she plays the side character of Helen when Timothy flashes back to a memory explaining why he is quitting the Royal Navy due to his lack of belief that good is not in all people, like he always thought even since he was an invalide child on a crutch.

Ms. Convis and Mr. Gaskill also play a couple of surprise characters: Surprise characters that Scrooge had been impatiently waiting to arrive. Zettelemaier creatively has the “ghosts” take over the bodies of Alice and Timothy to try to convince a dying Scrooge to join them as the newest Ghost of Christmas Future. A satisfying twist on a classic holiday story that has been around for over 150 years.

The 90 minute production was honored Zettelmaier’s script and the Scrooge tradition quite well. The entire play was a delightful way to ring in the holiday season and I can only hope that Zettelmaier’s Ebenezer will eventually become a holiday classic throughout many theaters across the world, just like the original, A Christmas Carol.

Week of 8/15/2022

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