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THEATER REVIEW: Cygnet’s “A Christmas Carol" set in 1940s

At Cygnet Theatre this year, the suicidal George Bailey gives way to the world’s most famous tightwad in the theater’s Christmas offering, a radio play version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The theater built an audience for this six-year tradition and uses many of the actors from the previous show in this one. Jonathan Dunn-Rankin, the golden-voiced radio announcer, is back to moderate the story for imaginary station WCYG. Melissa Fernandes returns, this time voicing the unseen Tiny Tim, among other characters. Tim Irving is Bob Cratchit, the kindly, put-upon underling of “Bah, humbug” Ebenezer Scrooge, played with great miserly nastiness by Tom Stephenson.

David McBean plays (among others) Scrooge’s late partner Jacob Marley, whose ghost is heard but not seen – but since this is a radio play, you need only close your eyes to envision the scariest ghost possible).

Melinda Gilb plays several roles, the funniest being one-half of a pair of solicitors for charity. The other half of that group is newcomer Maggie Carney, whose voice repertoire is matched only by that of McBean.

Billy Thompson contributes lovely, sometimes haunting incidental music (and tickles the ivories onstage as well).

Jason Connors returns to do sound-effect honors as the Foley designer, providing some of the most interesting visuals as well as strange and wondrous sounds. He also amuses with Scrooge’s “light as a feather, giddy as a schoolboy” redemption dance.

Radio commercials aren’t slighted either; these are for nine kinds of Kalikimaka cheese balls and Rasco brushless shaving cream “in a pressurized can!” (McBean’s expression on hearing of this new invention is priceless).

One could cavil about moving this 19th-century story to the mid-1940s, or inconsistent accents or that all the characters are not physically present, but the universality of the point is undeniable, the acting splendid, the costumes, sets and Foley work excellent, the spirit infectious.

That’s the real Christmas gift.

The details

“A Christmas Carol” plays through Dec. 30 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town.

Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

For tickets, call 619-337-1525 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.