'Mrs. Cratchit' spins traditional story in another direction
For those who look forward to “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens' seasonal tale of repentance, sharing and love, Christopher Durang's “Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge” is nothing like the holiday classic.
“It does resemble the traditional story in structure, and many of the same characters appear — Scrooge, Marley's Ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Bob Cratchit,” says Karin Maresh, director of the production at Apple Hill Playhouse. “But, just like the old ‘Fractured Fairytales' on the old ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle' show, nothing in this show plays out as we expect it to.”
Apple Hill's early Christmas present to its audiences — and its final show of the summer season — is a musical parody of the Dickens tale, which originally was commissioned by City Theatre in Pittsburgh and premiered in 2002. “Mrs. Cratchit's Binge” presents the familiar saga of Ebenezer Scrooge and company from the vantage point of Bob Cratchit's wife.
Fans of holiday classics also may recognize elements of “The Gift of the Magi” and “It's a Wonderful Life” as the show progresses. And there's even a love interest, unlikely though it may seem, between Cratchit's wife and Ebenezer Scrooge.
Kathleen O'Halloran of Manor plays Mrs. Cratchit, a nasty, mean-spirited woman who is fed up with her role as a supportive wife and mother.
“Mrs. Bob hates her life. She doesn't like children, being poor or being empathetic. She is really quite mean at times. All she wants to do is have a drink at the pub and jump off the London Bridge,” O'Halloran says.
The actress says Mrs. Cratchit is a fun character to portray.
“I love playing character roles, especially ones where I get to be sarcastic, nasty and depressed,” she says. O'Halloran has performed in Apple Hill productions of “Kitchen Witches,” “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” “Unnecessary Farce” and “No Sex Please, We're British.”
Maresh is directing her first production at Apple Hill. She is on the faculty at Washington and Jefferson College, where she teaches courses focusing on theater history, musical theater, acting and women in film.
“I had heard of the play but had never read it or had the opportunity to see it staged,” she says. What attracted her to the script was the playwright's “sense of playfulness with and irreverence toward Dickens' beloved tale — and I say that as one who is a fan of Dickens.”
The director says some of the jokes will be lost on young children and recommends the musical for those 10 and older.
Others in the cast include Dennis Gills as Scrooge, Carolyn Jerz as Young Marley, John Henry Steelman as Marley/Clarence, Rachel Painter as Tiny Tim, Leyna McCarthy as Ghost, and Bradford Sadler as Bob Cratchit. Rob Stull is music director; Meghan Ginley is stage manager.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.