In the gloriously benzedrine-stimulated world of playwright Christopher Durang, nothing approximates normalcy so much as lunacy. Look at any of Durang’s plays to confirm this point — or look at the New York premiere of Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, running at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn through Dec. 20.
Scrooge isn’t “Humbug!”-filled in this version of the Dickens morality tale as much as saddled, per the press materials, with a “kind of seasonal Tourette’s Syndrome,” and the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t soothing or scary as much as sassy — as in a “sassy African-American woman with enough attitude to portray all three spirits.” Mrs. Bob Cratchit figures a lot more into the action than in the Dickens (shades of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?) and, naturally, there is a love story between her and Scrooge. One can just imagine what Tiny Tim ends up being.
But being Scrooge is something that actor Douglas Rees has mastered. He originated the role at City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh, which commissioned the play from Durang, and is reprising his work at the Gallery Players.
And now, 5 questions Douglas Rees has never been asked – and a bonus question:
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
A director once commented, I think by way of a compliment, “You hold something back.” I’d never had that observation made about my work, but it sounded like it made me mysterious, and who doesn’t want to be mysterious? I do think there’s something to that, but I haven’t really examined it too closely. I just like it.
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Gonna go with the obvious on this one: “How do you remember all those lines?”
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
4) Only Christopher Durang could turn Scrooge into a fellow with “undiagnosed seasonal Tourette’s Syndrome.” Since you originated the role at City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh, did you work with him at all? Did he give any insight into his special brand of total madness?
Yes, Chris Durang was a regular presence at rehearsals. The show had been commissioned by City Theatre — it was the world premiere. Chris is a lovely, shy, but clearly warm human being, with an easy, appreciative laugh — that last part was the best. It’s indescribably satisfying to hear a noted playwright laughing with abandon at what you’re doing with his work. He didn’t offer a lot in the way of suggestions, but I suspect that was because the play was reasonably well “set” in terms of writing by the time we commenced rehearsals. It was, simply put, way cool to work with him.
5) Since it would seem that every actor in the history of the world has played Scrooge at one point or other, how much of a challenge is that for you as an actor? Was it the script or something inside of you that gave you your own particular spin on the role?
No problem whatsoever — this Scrooge is a joy to play, which is why I actively sought the opportunity to revisit the role. This is not a hidebound, typical Scrooge as you might rightly suspect, given the author. It’s just a delight.
6) What do you and Scrooge personally have in common? And also, what do you want for Christmas?
I have a great deal in common with Scrooge; I can tend to have a rather dyspeptic worldview, but am also capable of epiphanies and growth. And as to what I want for Christmas: my beautiful, sweet girlfriend home safely and in my arms (she’s on the road until just after Christmas). Merry, merry!