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Play Review: A Christmas Carol


Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
Posted in

Monday, September 24, 2001
When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in the early 1840’s, Christmas was in danger of dying in England. Christmas was still observed by the church, but the rural traditions of celebrating the holiday with family and friends were dying out due to migration to the big cities during the Industrial Revolution.

The customs presented in A Christmas Carol would have seemed distant, but quaint to Victorian England audiences. Many credit Dickens’ play with helping to bring Christmas "back to life" by reminding audiences of the old traditions, and the joy of celebrating and feasting with loved ones.

The Commonweal Theater Company opened their 2001 version of the timeless tale on November 16. Directed by Commonweal veteran Carla Noack, this production is a holiday treat not to be missed.

In a setting that the theater refers to as "a vintage attic", five players, in authentic Victorian dress, create all the roles in the play. Harold N. Cropp, Commonweal’s Executive Director, smoothly inhabits Scrooge, giving the character a subtle emotional vulnerability underneath the trademark bah-humbug attitude. Mark Christopher Baer is an audience favorite, playing the Ghost of Christmas Present in a style similar to a laughing Buddha. Baer also gets some of the plays’ best lines as Scrooge’s nephew, and only relative.

Scott Dixon nicely captures the quiet dignity of Scrooge’s overworked, underpaid assistant, Bob Cratchit. Jill Underwood and Betsy Skowbo round out the ensemble, with Underwood’s turn as Marley’s Ghost being especially noteworthy.

As for the casting of Tiny Tim, the production takes an interesting approach that struck me as odd. But my companion thought it was innovative, and he liked it. So there you go.

The production seems true to Dickens’ original intentions in several ways. One is the focus on the narrative. Dickens’ performed A Christmas Carol as a reading many times in his lifetime, doing all the different characters’ voices himself.

Also, by having the ensemble on stage nearly all the time, the emphasis on Scrooge as the main character is less pronounced, much as it was during Dickens’ time. Poverty plagued England at that time, and audiences likely related to the Cratchits and other struggling characters far more than to the wealthy Scrooge.

The Commonweal shines in ensemble work. It boggles the mind how the players can recite lines while smoothly movi .....
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Twelfth Night

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Monday, April 30, 2001



“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

This classic line is from William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, now playing at the Commonweal Theatre through Octo ..... 
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Book Review: Recently released Minnesota books

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Last month I attended the annual convention of the Upper Midwest Bookseller Association in downtown St. Paul, a gathering of authors, publishers and independent booksellers.

I was impressed, as I was last year, by the number of fine books of ..... 
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Rushford Library looking at expansion

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Monday, November 20

To build or to remodel? That is the question a Library Taskforce has been considering for the past couple months in the city of Rushford.

The existing public library in the Tew Building, located near Rushford’s cent ..... 
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Gateway Towns

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Austin


Greetings from Austin, Minnesota! Located on I-90, visitors from the west will come through this major city located on the Cedar River.

Austin is the home of the Fortune 500 company -- Geo. A. Hormel & ..... 
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Northeastern Iowa

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Northeast Iowa shares much of the same topography of Historic Bluff Country. Limestone bluffs, meandering rivers, springs, and rolling hills in the east and softly rolling hills with rich prairie soil in the west. Minnesota and Iowa also share the sa ..... 
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Anytown, MN

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Nestled in a deep valley of the Root River is the unique city of Anytown. This quaint townsite of less than one thousand residents, located in the state hardwood forest reminds one of the many hillside villages in Norway.

Strolling down the ..... 
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Not in my backyard

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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Monday, June 26, 2000

In the usually quiet burg of Spring Valley, the hot topic of conversation has switched as of late. While recent flooding has left the community with much to contemplate, another issue is sizzling to the forefront. What’s ..... 
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Wykoff, MN

Fri, Jan 4th, 2002
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When you visit the heart of Bluff Country, take the drive on MN Hwy. 80 and you will find Wykoff, "The Gateway to Forestville."

Our limestone karst region is dotted with "sink holes" which indicate caverns below ground. You can visit one of t ..... 
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