James-Carpenter-as-Ebenezer-Scrooge-in-A.C.T.s-A-Christmas-CarolEbenezer Scrooge was not a bad man.

He was human. He was stuck in his old habits built around fear. He was afraid of being poor, so he surrounded himself with the only thing that mattered most to him, and that was money, and making money grow. He was scarred by a lonely childhood and he protected himself in the only way he knew how, even if it cost him his innocence and joy for life, and the relationship with those who loved him nevertheless.

Thus it starts the classic and popular Christmas tale Charles Dickens penned in 1843 when it was first published. I went with a friend of mine, who had been hinting her interest in enlisting someone to accompany her since she had never seen the play before, that person being me, of course. I had seen the show a couple of times in the past and wasn’t exactly thrilled to jump in the opportunity of yet another performance. However, I took my friend to the theater, not letting her know where we were going to, and we had a wonderful time.

ACT’s new approach to Dickens’ tale was as dull and stale as Mr. Scrooge’s dingy sleeping chamber. There were faint blows of fresh air here and there, not quite making justice to this classic novella withal. One can understand that the adaptation had to be cut down to some essentials lest the little ones, who were in the audience, would not be induced to an early slumber in the middle of the story. However, we should not underestimate the ability children have to capture complex nuances and innuendos. At times, the production veered from a steady course and embarked into silly meanderings. The ghastly figure of the Ghost of Christmas Future is a phenomenal set piece that will surely remain in the memories of both the children and adults who attended the show. The cast was uneven, however. Some stellar performances stirred the story while others barely convinced us of their intentions. Still, Dickens’ story communicates a powerful message to those who heed him. All in all, ACT’s annual tradition of giving us A Christmas Carol still warms the heart and keeps the lights of the season ablaze.

A Christmas Carol talks about the importance of family and friends above all else. It shows us that despite money and material gratification, if we don’t allow ourselves to connect with others in a deeper level, life is devoid of substance, and we will be left wondering at what point in our lives we made that wrong turn. We are reminded of the things that truly makes us happy and fulfilled in our lives and we go back to the simplest pleasures we can remember, like playing by the beach with our parents and siblings when we were kids, being lulled to sleep to the sound of our aunt’s or grandma’s voices as they told story or sang to us, or when we had a glass of wine with friends and shared the laughter and tears later on down the road. The simple memories of joy are the things that stay with us in the dissonant verbiage activity of our busy lives.

hanna_1Not too long ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to re-encounter an old friend. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly two decades. I was nervous, thrilled and grateful that I was going to see my friend again after all those years. We drove on small roads passing quaint little towns along the way until we arrived at this small village in the countryside. It was mid-fall so temperatures had gone down a bit and the air was moist and crisp. Gray skies hinted the possibility of rain later on. I could already picture the whole place in the winter when the snowfall turned everything white. At this time, however, the land was still green, but the thick fog, due to a large body of fluvial water nearby,  covered the landscape in its romantically somber mist.

After some time we arrived at her house. The joy we experienced is indescribable. After warm hugs and long stares at each other we all went into her snug home. Every detail in her place was carefully selected and reflected her charming personality and character. We had beer, pizza; wine and coffee with chocolate and cookies, and deep, heart-felt conversations. We only had a few hours to catch up on each other after all this time. We had so much to talk, so much to listen. We learned about our struggles and sufferings and hardships, as well as our joys and challenges conquered. I looked at my friend, deep inside her eyes, deep inside her soul and communed with her. We understood each other. We saw the presence of life vibrating in our bodies. How strong she is I thought, and, without a word from my side, she acknowledged my realization and admiration for her courage during the difficult times she had endured. We felt each other communicating in a different realm, far beyond the ambiguities of the spoken language. The language was there only as pointers during the course of our conversation, but our hearts knew it better and did most of the talking for us. Then the time came to say our good-byes. We hugged, kissed, and cried, and we promised to see each other again soon. Outside, night had covered all in darkness, and we saw nothing but the headlights illuminating the road as we drove away. We were silent; our hearts, filled with joy, gratitude and love.

At times, I had tears in my eyes as I watched A Christmas Carol this year. Dickens’ story is far deeper than any adaptation of his work. For the first time I really understood what Dickens was trying to impart. For the first time I understood his message clearly, not intellectually as many times before, but with the heart. It is about the connection we have with others; the compassion we feel in our hearts, the ability to be by each other’s side and suffer together, strengthening the ties. Only thus can we truly be happy together and laugh, and celebrate our lives.

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