BY TRAV S.D. | I have verified empirically what we have all sensed instinctively: there are way too many versions of Charles Dickens’ 1843 story “A Christmas Carol.” It is a powerful, affecting tale and a brilliant piece of writing — but familiarity breeds contempt. If there is anything calculated to turn me into Scrooge, it’s Tinseltown’s plethora of “Christmas Carol” versions, certainly all of the ones made after 1971.
That said, live theatre ain’t film. Theatre offers much that film can’t, no matter what’s up on screen. For those things on the screen are far away. They are not here. Whereas, at the 183-year-old Merchant’s House Museum, you step into an environment, really the only environment for an evening of animated Victorian storytelling by a first-rate actor.
The cozy old home of the wealthy Tredwell family is decked out for the holidays now, with holly and ivy, pine wreathes and garlands and poinsettias. This is the setting for John Kevin Jones’ solo version of “A Christmas Carol,” a brisk hour in which the spellbinding actor transports us to Dickens’ London, inhabiting at least a couple dozen diverse characters in the bargain.
If you’re feeling grumpy (it’s been known to happen to New Yorkers at Christmas), this would be a good way to swing out of it. If you’re feeling jolly, it will make you jollier. As we used to say at theatre school, Jones has an excellent “apparatus” — a terrifically resonant voice, and a practiced skill at deploying it. Those would avail nothing if he didn’t know how to entertain, but he does. The true measure: there were two little boys in attendance when I saw it, each under 10 — and Jones held their attention the entire time. With live solo theatre in an old house. In the age of electronic game addiction, this is the true Christmas miracle.
Dec. 10–24 at Merchant’s House Museum (29 E. Fourth St., btw. Lafayette & Bowery). For schedule and tickets ($50–$60, with pre-show celebration option available), visit dickensinnewyork.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006. Venue info at merchantshouse.org.