Parking in this industrial area south of downtown LA is eerily quiet. Six 01 Studio, an artists collective/rental space, is an interesting place for a play. A 7000 sq ft open area warehouse is certainly more space than most black boxes a small company or production is used to.
Casey Kringlen, Director/Producer has taken Tom Mula’s script and invests a creativity that goes way beyond the pages. His vision for a ghost story begins in a dark space with chairs set in a rectangular fashion with open corners. The Stage Manager Caitlin Leong and Musician/Foley Artist Brian Wood located in one open corner, an open platform with stair steps up and down located in an adjacent corner and 2 step ladders fill a third open corner. The fourth corner acts as the entrance to the campfire feeling set up.
As you come in and are directed to the bar area, the smell of cookies baking is the first sense to be enticed. You are made to feel welcome by the cast as they hand out these freshly baked goodies while electronically altered Christmas Carols play in the background.
Suddenly, the cast explodes into a joyous “Merry Christmas” and they begin a dance routine that keeps your attention in the front area as haze begins to fill the ‘stage’. You are then escorted into the performance area that has transformed into a foggy, blue lit cavernous otherworldly dimension.
No spoilers… The story is simple. When Jacob Marley dies, certainly due to Scrooges’ lack of compassion, he is doomed to obscurity unless he can turn Ebeneser’s heart around. The delightful twist of this storyline is that Marley IS the ghost of Christmas past, present and future guided by the Record Keeper’s appointed devilish angel in waiting – Bogle
Ian Andrew Jones (Bogle) – shows his versatility as an actor as the playful fiend who guides Marley in the afterlife. The English accent is excellent but sometimes indiscernible in the reverb chamber of the warehouse. I can’t imagine actually filming in this space without the need for complete ADR in post production.
Travis Stanberry (Scrooge) fills the old codger’s boots with tenacity. Although Scrooge is the center of the story, he is not the center of attention. We believe he is a penny pincher when picking up coins in the courtyard as others laugh at him and we feel for him as he takes the lessons given him from his ghostly former partner.
Keri Blunt (Everybody else) fills all the gaps in characters and especially in the role of the Record Keeper. Keri contorts herself into an ancient gnome collecting the debts from souls before they may pass. As the Shadow of Death, her silhouette is creepy and a reminder of what is to come…for all of us.
Jeff Elam (Marley) is believable as Scrooge steals the counting house from under him and has a heart attack. Jeff takes us on Marley’s own impossible journey as well as the task of redeeming Scrooge in 24 hours. His transformation into Christmas Present is truly moving. Without a set change, no extra costuming and a very simple shift in lighting, Jeff comes alive with joy and vigor as he becomes the Spirit of the season.
We become invested into his plight and are relieved to see Scrooge turned around as a result of his creative ghostly visitations.
Technically, the use of the space and the seating arrangement is brilliant. Kringlens vision for a ghost story is certainly realized in this environment. The heavy rock and roll fog and haze bring us into the spiritworld, transform us to other times and even lift us up above the streets of London.
Flashlights? Yes, flashlights are a key tech ingredient giving sinister shadows on faces and walls. Colors differentiate characters and even create the silhouette of the Shadow of Death. Again, the vision is there and the execution is brilliant!
The other stage lights are minimal and really only set the mood. Again, Kringlen doesn’t overproduce with sound, lights or set. His true genius is in the setting and giving the Actors the space and direction to tell a story, share a dream and transform from disparity to salvation.
The side stage foley/music fills are another inspired touch. Wind and thunder, musical interludes, chimes and drums fill the gaps that would have normally been ‘canned’ playback. A LIVE musician playing is a welcome touch to this unorthodox theatrical presentation.
The real Christmas miracle: Kringlen began rehearsal before formally acquiring the rights to the play from Dramatists Inc. Confidence was high, but weeks before opening the Author denied the request. Tom Mula saw the kickstarter video and 36 hours later, after shutting down production, the rights were granted. The complete story is on their website http://xmasdtla.com/.
Director’s/Producer’s moral of the story: Get the rights first!!!
Six01 studio.com. 601 S. Anderson St 90023
South of downtown LA.
Runs: December 13 (preview), 14 (opening), 21, 22, 28, 29.
2 shows nightly 8:00 & 10:30PM