By Charles Dickens; Directed by Ryan Emmons
Produced by No.11 Productions
Off Off Broadway, Classic
Ran on 12.16.19
Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn
by Asya Gorovits on 12.27.19
Steven Conroy, and Forest Vandyke in A Christmas Carol. Photo by Nate Bertone.
BOTTOM LINE: An annual No.11 Productions’ Christmas immersive party finds new ways to reconnect modern audiences with Dickens’ classic.
For the fourth consecutive year No.11 Productions took the good old Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, out of the trunk of seasonal necessities and, after dusting and tweaking it a bit, performed it for one night only at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn. This was my first time attending, and I felt the atmosphere of joyful unity right upon entering the grand space of the former Sunday School. Friends saying hello to each other, children running around, and a few volunteer audience members trying on costumes off to the side; everything is reminiscent of a big family gathering.
For about forty minutes of pre-show, audience members are ushered to the gallery upstairs where plentiful pastries and tangerines are arranged on little tables, and a bar serves two kinds of punch. The play itself begins after director Ryan Emmons makes his welcoming speech, a transition that might be required but actually works for the “family party” format.
No. 11 Productions’ A Christmas Carol is in a sense a promenade piece. Each scene takes place in a different part of the room, sometimes erupting right in the middle of the crowd. Trying to guess in which corner the next dialogue will occur—and then making it there in time—becomes a fun game. Besides not knowing where the actors will appear next, the rare but joyful moments of interaction with the cast keep the audience on its toes. After being startled by Marley’s chains rattling and then invited for a Victorian line dance, I had no idea what to expect; to my pleasure, A Christmas Carol kept surprising again and again.
The wonderful cast performed with such contagious sincerity that I soon found myself seated cross-legged on the floor with all the kids, latching onto every single line with the excitement of somebody who is hearing this story for the first time. Forest VanDyke as Ebenezer Scrooge, a grumpy penny-pincher who changes his ways overnight, is especially good at taking us on this journey of spiritual rebirth and transformation. Another unforgettable performance is by Sequoia, a magnificent Ghost of Christmas Present in drag. She transforms the venue into a dance floor for the duration of her number, leading the crowd into a dance accompanied by live music by the Nat Osborn Band (who gives a concert as an after-party).
The volunteer audience members who play some of the smaller roles add a lot of flavor to this production. Others in the audience root for the shy performers who can barely make it through their two lines like proud parents at an elementary school performance. The audience roars with laughter and applause for the beloved recurring characters, like Tiny Tim, performed by a 6-foot guy leaning on a crutch that barely comes up to his knee.
No.11 Productions' A Christmas Carol is a wonderful holiday tradition that will cheer up anybody’s spirits. The company manages to combine superb professional performances with an endearing amateur theatre vibe. So make sure to have your dancing shoes ready for next year!
(A Christmas Carol plays at Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, on December 16, 2019. The running time was 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets were $30. For more information visit no11productions.com.)
A Christmas Carol is by Charles Dickens, adapted and produced by No.11 Productions. Directed by Ryan Emmons. Associate Director is Ryan Buchanan. Original Music and Sound Design by Enrico de Trizio. Additional Music by Nat Osborn. Set and Lighting Design by Ryan Hauenstein. Puppetry and Prop Design by Jen Neads and Danny Tieger. Costume Design by Kathleen Blanchard and Julie Congress.
The cast is Forest Vandyke, Steven Conroy, Julie Congress, Alison, Novelli, and Giselle Chatelain.