“It’s a play within a play.”
That’s how acting apprentice Andrew Protopapas described his theater company’s spin on “A Christmas Carol,” which CATCO is currently performing until Dec. 21.
Charles Dickens’ story is book-ended by that of characters in 1940s England who find their way into an old, abandoned theater during a bomb raid. They come across the script for “A Christmas Carol,” find props and costumes in the theater and put on the show, director Joe Bishara said.
That’s when the classic holiday story unfolds, but with a twist.
While this kind of play traditionally consists of a cast of 50 or more individuals, CATCO’s version only has seven, Bishara said.
“The script we chose is actually designed to be played by five actors,” Bishara said. “We thought, ‘How do we put our own spin on this?’ Ours is that we have seven actors instead of five.”
Besides Ken Erney, who portrays Ebenezer Scrooge, all of the cast members change roles throughout the entire performance.
“Having everyone switch roles provides our actors the opportunity to stretch themselves in a variety of different ways,” Bishara said.
CATCO is producing the play for a second consecutive year, and Bishara explained the importance of Erney returning to portray Scrooge.
“I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role,” he said. “He is really the driving force. He’s someone who understands the depth and breadth of CATCO.”
In addition to the live actors, the play includes a 1930s repurposed marionette. Just like the actors, the puppet changes outfits and roles throughout the play, ranging from young Scrooge to Tiny Tim.
Assistant director of the production and Ohio State alumna Sami Cline said CATCO’s reimagining of the play is what makes their version of the holiday favorite stand apart from other renditions. “It’s an innovative and artistic approach to telling the story,” Cline said. “We still stay true to the story of ‘A Christmas Carol’ — that’s what makes it enjoyable for all ages.”
Protopapas agreed, pointing out his favorite parts in the play.
“There are stirring speeches in this play,” Protopapas said. “They’re about what Christmas means and what it should mean to people. There are passages that should apply to everyday life, not just Christmas day.”
Including intermission, the play’s run time is about two hours.
CATCO’s “A Christmas Carol” is set to be performed in Studio One at the Riffe Center.
Admission is $25 for adults and $15 for children.