Presented by SourceWorks Theatre at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, 61 Christopher St., NYC, Dec. 6-21.
Of the several versions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" now showing in New York, this contemporary gay interpretation by Joe Godfrey has to be the most original.
While Godfrey has taken considerable liberties with Dickens, he is able to adhere to the basic spiritual message (no pun intended) of this seemingly indestructible holiday classic. The result is dollops of sentiment spiked with occasional outrageousness, ultimately creating something that is unexpectedly touching.
Here, Ben Scrooge (John Marino) is a prominent New York interior designer; his assistant is the put-upon Bob Cratchit (J.D. Lynch), whose partner is Tim (Dan Pintauro), an office temp struggling with HIV. As a result of dismissing a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser, those ghostly visitations to Scrooge begin. This is where the playwright starts to have fun. Jake Marley (Henry David Clarke), born Jacob Markowitz, was once Scrooge's partner in life as well as business—he returns to haunt as a buff young man wearing designer chains. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Cynthia Pierce) comes in the form of Marilyn Monroe in her "Seven Year Itch" white dress to reveal scenes from Scrooge's troubled early years. And then the Ghost of Christmas Present (Michael Lynch) is different again—first of all she's black…with a feather boa. Other original touches are a Christmas tree that's come via Chernobyl, and a new take on the Christmas goose. The early scenes from Christmas past might be tightened to benefit this intermission-less piece that otherwise rattles along under the direction of Mark Cannistraro.
On the tiny and cramped stage of the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, the hardworking cast of nine is uniformly strong. While Marino's Scrooge could be a little fiercer, Pintauro cleverly differentiates his two roles of the young Scrooge and Tim, while J.D. Lynch accomplishes with charm the difficult task of being consistently nice. Clarke and Michael Lynch display welcome attack, while considerable versatility is demonstrated by Pierce, Virginia Baeta, Yaakov Sullivan, and Nathan Johnson.