17 December 2012

The shades of Dickens

This weekend I went to Housing Works' third annual reading of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I haven't been to the play in years, but since Housing Works started doing this three years ago, I find it a welcome substitute.

I wasn't able to arrive until midway through the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Present, but I felt lucky to see Mike Albo act out one of the people who came to loot Scrooge's belongings and put names to faces with two authors whose work I have recently enjoyed, David Goodwillie and Teddy Wayne. Simon Van Booy was the closer (with bonus appropriate accent -- he grew up in Wales after all) and said a few very nice things at the end tying the message of the book to the help that Housing Works is able to give, through donations, to people who are homeless and HIV-positive. (Next year, guys, use that opportunity to pass around a festive hat! Free idea.)

But I don't think I was the only one to find particularly evocative the stretch of "The Last Of The Spirits" in which the Cratchits mourn Tiny Tim together, as read sensitively by Times drinking columnist Rosie Schaap. Prepare to be boarded by feelings:

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her face.
"The colour hurts my eyes," she said.
The colour? Ah, poor Tiny Tim.
"They're better now again," said Cratchit's wife. "It makes them weak by candle-light; and I wouldn't show weak eyes to your father when he comes home, for the world. It must be near his time."
"Past it rather," Peter answered, shutting up his book. "But I think he's walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mother."
They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once:
"I have known him walk with -- I have known him walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed."
"And so have I," cried Peter. "Often."
"And so have I," exclaimed another. So had all.
"But he was very light to carry," she resumed, intent upon her work, "and his father loved him so, that it was no trouble -- no trouble. And there is your father at the door!"
She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter -- he had need of it, poor fellow -- came in. His tea was ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should help him to it most. Then the two young Cratchits got upon his knees and laid, each child a little cheek, against his face, as if they said, "Don't mind it, father. Don't be grieved."
Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to all the family. He looked at the work upon the table, and praised the industry and speed of Mrs Cratchit and the girls. They would be done long before Sunday, he said.
"Sunday. You went to-day, then, Robert?" said his wife.
"Yes, my dear," returned Bob. "I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you'll see it often. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child!" cried Bob. "My little child!"

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