Off the Wall’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ debuts at Carnegie Stage
Most local theater companies stage some version or another of “A Christmas Carol” at this time of year. Few feature a script transposed from the source novella by Charles Dickens of the same name.
Fewer, if any, star only one actor. The production of the Christmas classic that debuted last week at the Carnegie Stage can claim to do both.
“There’s only one of this version and I’m very proud of it,” said Mark Coffin, who stars in the show. “We didn’t invent scenes. We didn’t invent dramatic moments. We used what (Dickens) wrote and pared it down to create a 90 minute, moving story.”
The one-man show was adapted by Coffin and Heidi Mueller Smith in her directorial debut at Off the Wall, the Carnegie Stage’s resident theater company. It sees Coffin portray not only Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas who haunt him, but the narrator of the original novella whose words he and Mueller Smith said are seldom heard onstage.
“We really never felt that there was a better time in recent history to really learn and observe the lessons of these words about kindness and what’s really important,” said Mueller Smith.
Coffin, a member of Actor’s Equity and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, lives in Hell’s Kitchen, New York and has starred in stage productions across the country. He has been featured in several films as well. Mueller Smith moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 from New York City, where she previously taught and directed at the Stella Adler Acting Studio; she previously ran a theater company in her home town of Milwaukee, Wis.
The show marks Coffin’s first turn as the solo performer in a stage show, a task he said was sometimes overwhelming. He is backed during the show only by lighting and technical trickery that Mueller Smith said help bring the tale he spins to life.
“We go from one man at the top of the show,” Mueller Smith said, “to by the end of the show, he’s created a world and scenes that are filled with people and sounds. And then we realize at the end that it was still just that one guy.”
For Coffin, who described a lifelong love of the story, the production has been a “dream come true.” He and Mueller Smith said the show should appeal to general audiences as well as die-hard Dickens fans.
“A Christmas Carol” will be performed at the Carnegie Stage from Dec. 6 through Dec. 8 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 9 at 3 p.m.; and from Dec. 13 through the 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.insideoffthewall.com
Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributor.