Capsule Reviews

A Christmas Carol It came upon a midnight drear in writer-director Jonathan Moscone's adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. We get a Scrooge (James Carpenter) who's more timid than Tiny Tim. His "Bah, humbugs" are bah-oring. The Spirits of Christmas Past and Present stroll onstage almost casually (the latter wearing some kind of UFO on her head). Then a pack of faceless zombies (no kidding) rise from the graveyard to warn Ebenezer that he'd better change his ways before Tiny Tim cashes in his crutch. The smallish cast tells the story narrative-style, speaking directly to the audience in language so flowery you can hear the curlicues. They stop the plot to sing carols off-key to whiny violin accompaniment, and they waste a lot of time stopping the action for long dance sequences. Drained of Dickens' humor and humanity, this is a disappointing, fairly scary Carol. When at the end of Act 2, Scrooge sees the error of his ways and is flooded with the Christmas giddies, he asks, "Where is the prize turkey?" Doesn't he see? He's smack in the middle of one. Through December 24 at the Arts District Theater, 2401 Flora St., 214-522-8499. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Circumference of a Squirrel (A Riff With an Inner Tube) It's not really about a squirrel. And yet, it is. John Walch's one-man one-act considers the fuzzy circle of life, namely the connections between fathers and sons and men and squirrels. Chester (played with great physical and vocal pizzazz by David Goodwin) is a grad-school dropout afraid of introducing his Jewish fiancee to his anti-Semitic father. Way back in Chester's childhood, he'd seen his dad get bitten by a squirrel. Did the old man pick up a rare form of rabies that hardened his heart and reddened his neck? Asking interesting questions about bigotry, forgiveness and redemption, the play jumps back and forth in time as Chester faces big crises that somehow all connect to his fear of furry rodents. Directed by Tina Parker and featuring a set by Mary Wynn Allen made of a cartoonish triptych depicting squirrelly scenes, the Kitchen Dog production adds artistic flourishes to a sometimes corny script. Goodwin, who's won local theater awards as actor, playwright and puppeteer, gives a fine-tuned, memorable performance. Nice work, too, by sound designer Jonathan Taylor, who can't resist a cut from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Through December 18 at Kitchen Dog's Black Box Theater at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1055. Reviewed November 25. (E.L.)

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