By Charles Dickens
Adapted and directed by Edward Kuffert
At City Lit Theater, Chicago
“To have a cricket on the hearth is the luckest thing in all the world!” – Mrs. Peerybingle
Heartwarming family tale comes to life at City Lit
Upon its publication in 1845, The Cricket on the Hearth out sold Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from 1843, Cricket’s stage adaptations were more popular than A Christmas Carol throughout the 19th Century in England. Maybe because The Cricket on the Hearth was such a warm celebration of the magic of domesticity or maybe because the British could easily relate? But over time, A Christmas Carol won the hearts of the English and the Americans. Both stories contributed to make Christmas a major English holiday
.Adapter/director Edward Kuffert’s take on The Cricket on the Hearth is a blend of story theatre, which contains much narrative, and dramatic theatre. Add the long, wordy Dickens description narrative and Cricket demands audience’s full attention. But the able cast of six players nimbly moves from narrators to players to reach the sweetness of Dickens story.
Barbara Anderson, Nicholas Roy Caesar, Brian-Mark Conover, Callie Johnson, Lisa Strain, and Nick Shea sport authentic British accents as they work hard to convey the eccentricities of Dickens colorful characters. The Peerybingle household is watched over by a cricket who is the household’s guardian angel. He represents the spirit of the Victorian ideal of a happy home. Things get interesting when a mysterious stranger rents lodging and when all the household’s lives become entwined in those of the poor toymaker Caleb Plummer, his blind daughter Bertha, the miser Tackelton, and Tackleton’s unwilling fiancee May Fielding.
Without spoiling the story, let me state that one major character is overwhelmed by the Christmas spirit as he surrenders one to her true love. Filled with fine English traditional folks Christmas songs, Cricket is a nostalgic trip to early Victorian Christmas family life. It is quaint and homespun and heartwarming. The cast is game and dedicated; Nick Shea is particularly effective in several roles. This 85 minute classic is worth a look.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: December 23, 2012
For more info checkout The Cricket on the Hearth page at theatreinchicago.com
At City Lit Theater, 1029 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-293-3682, www.citylit.org, tickets $20, Wednesday, December 26 through Saturday, December 29 at 8 pm, Sunday, December 30 at 3 pm; Friday, January 4 & Saturday, January 5 at 8 pm, Sunday, January 6 at 3 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission through January 6, 2013