Play by Play: December 4, 2009

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  December 2, 2009

A CHRISTMAS CAROL | Trinity Repertory Company's annual rendition of Dickens's holiday classic is down to one cast this year, with Timothy Crowe as Scrooge, Mauro Hantman as Bob Cratchit, Barbara Meek as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Fred Sullivan Jr. as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Joe Wilson Jr. as Marley, Rachael Warren as Fan, David Rudi Utter as young Scrooge, and Monica Willey as Belle. Birgitta Victorson directs. | Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington St, Providence, Rhode Island | 401.351.4242 | Through December 27 | Curtain 7:30 pm Tues-Fri [Christmas Eve @ noon + 5 pm; no Christmas Day] | 2 + 7:30 pm Sat | noon + 5 pm Sun | $40-$65; children ages 2-14 $10

A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL CELEBRATION | For her new play — which debuted last season at Long Wharf Theatre and is now receiving a second production by the Huntington Theatre Company — Pulitzer winner Paula Vogel headed into the library to mix, match, and set to period music snippets of history involving persons of every hue and religion, icons and unknowns, Unionists and Confederates, all swirling around the vortex of Christmas Eve 1864, when the Lincolns were passing their last Yule in the White House, the Civil War was winding down, and the plot against the president was cranking up. The resultant melody-enriched pageant — meant to promote community and to wish us all "gladness of heart" and impending peace — may represent a noble aim (not to mention a seasonal alternative to A Christmas Carol). But it makes for paint-by-numbers theater. Fortunately, emotional heart is supplied by almost continuous music that ranges from traditional carols to Civil War–era ballads to African-American spirituals. Jacqui Parker brings a stoic humanity to grieving White House seamstress Elizabeth Keckley and a haunting power to "There is a Balm in Gilead"; Karen MacDonald is a lively, anxious Mrs. Lincoln, and Ken Cheeseman, though a lightweight Lincoln, makes a lovably reluctant horse, switching between stovepipe and bushy tail so fast, you half expect him to gallop away on himself. | Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston | Through December 13 | Curtain 7:30 pm Tues | 2 + 7:30 pm Wed | 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 2 + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $30-$82.50

DEATH BY CHOCOLATE | Shear Madness company member Mike Dorval reprises this show detailing his "one-man, 30-year, 110-pound odyssey of cake, candy, and a few things he learned between meals." | Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont St, Boston | 617.426.5000 | Through December 18 | Curtain 8 pm Fri | 6 + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $29

THE DONKEY SHOW | Diane Paulus & Randy Weiner's disco-set riff on A Midsummer Night's Dream is an hour-long work set in the Studio 54–inspired environs of Club Oberon and framed by episodes of Saturday Night Fever in which you may or may not choose to star. The dramatis personae include Dr. Wheelgood, a gold-lamé-clad Puck on roller skates; club owner Mr. Oberon, who's out to humiliate his haughty diva girlfriend, Tytania; desperately yearning or cockily dismissive lovers Helen, Dimitri, Mia, and Sander; and a twin couple of ruffle-shirted, Afro-coiffed dudes both named Vinnie. Ingeniously double-cast, sexily supple, and screeching into headsets, they join the paying crowd (a small minority of whom occupy tables in a cabaret area that also sees action) for an immersive night of hedonism and hustle driven by the pounding beat and melodramatic passions of disco hits from the 1970s. | Oberon, Mass Ave + Arrow St, Cambridge | 617.547.8300 | Through January 2 | 8 pm Fri | 8 + 10:30 pm Sat | $25-$49

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