Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spotlight on Blesset Unrest and the Innovative Theatre Awards.

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards celebrates "Off-Off Broadway" theatre by recognizing the excellence of artists working in these productions. You can read more about the mission of the "IT Awards" here, and learn about current productions here. As a show wraps up a season of performances, voting for that show for the IT Awards closes. I recently saw Blessed Unrest's production of A Christmas Carol, and I took a few minutes today to cast a ballot for that performance, giving especially high marks for choreography, ensemble performance and outstanding actors. Here's why.

Founded by Artistic Director, Jessica Burr, Blessed Unrest has been challenging theatrical norms since 2000 with a wealth of productions that often emphasize ensemble casts and physical theater. In A Christmas Carol, just six actors played thirty-seven characters as they led you through a very unusual journey with Scrooge (played by Damen Scranton) and his spirits of Christmas past (played by Sora Baek), present and future (both played by Ensemble members).

The basics of the story remained unchanged -- Scrooge was a miser who could never see further than his own nose, even when it came to the holidays and especially when it came to his own employees, such as his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit (played by Nathan Richard Wagner). Then suddenly he is shown the err of his ways by the Christmas spirits. However, Blessed Unrest's unique and imaginative take on this classic tale had me impressed by the ability of the cast to move so fluidly together in motion, dance and gymnastics in often farcical synergy. Together, the Blessed Unrest cast made me feel moments of merriment and moments of sorrow as they moved towards the valuable moral of the story. The minimalist scenery, mostly a variety of old trunks and doors, was used in unique ways and added to the ideals of the stark contrast of wealth and poverty presented by the performers.

Damen Scranton, the only actor to maintain the same role throughout the show, played a stoic Ebenezer Scrooge, whose character quickly became tragically appealing to the audience. Joshua Wynter, who played Scrooge's deceased former business partner, Jacob Marley, among other characters, first stepped onto the stage in stilts as Marley's imposing ghost. Wynter could walk on those stilts like he was born on them as he presented a poignant message for "Scrooge." From there, the show moved on to a touching portrayal of Scrooge's last memories of his deceased sister, Fan (played by Jessi Blue Gormezano), and onward through Scrooge's isolated life and interactions with others, or lack thereof. A Christmas Carol was peppered with comedic scenes, such as a party hosted by the lively Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig (played by Wynter and Wagner, respectively), and pitiful ones, such as Scrooge watching his former beau, Belle (played by Tatyana Kot), enraptured with another. The show left me with a tear, even as it left me with a warm and jovial heart.

A Christmas Carol ran from December 5-22 and voting for the IT Awards ends for this show TODAY. I look forward to what's in Blessed Unrest's future.

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