Review: IRT's 'A Christmas Carol' 

4 stars

IRT's annual production of Charles Dickens's holiday classic continues with its snow-covered stage and chorus of narrators, but enough change has occurred in it or in me to make me want to believe, once again, that we are as merry and kind a people as the sentimental English novelist created.

New director Richard J. Roberts (Pretty Fire and Butler University's Eurydice) takes a risk with a new Scrooge, Ryan Artzberger (Romeo and Juliet and Phoenix Theatre's Reasons to Be Pretty), an actor who usually reminds me more of a young Ray Liotta than old Alistair Sim. Fortunately, the same edge that made Artzberger a great Mercutio last season can be tucked into a waistcoat and top hat (here with shaved head) to conjure a hardened old businessman who bristles at helping the poor yet trembles like jelly when confronted with his past.

Like Artzberger, the supporting players/narrators act more as true characters than bemused observers or caricatures to be dusted off yearly. I particularly enjoyed Matthew Brumlow as Nephew Fred, Constance Macy as Mrs. Cratchit, and the greasy crew who sift through Dead Scrooge's bedclothes. This year's Marley is made up too red in the face and echoes too loudly, but more often throughout the production, Roberts finds the right balance between Victorian dignity, Gothic moodiness and a playful stage physicality that proves to us the redemptive qualities of ghosts, boiled pudding and theater.

Indiana Repertory Theatre, directed by Richard J. Roberts; through Dec. 26; 635-5252, www.irtlive.com.

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