Fells Point Corner Theatre has delivered one of the nicest gifts it could give the community -- a brand new second stage, which is making its debut with "A Christmas Carol."
If you think of the theater as the wrapping and the production as the gift inside, then it must be acknowledged that, in this case, the wrapping is more exciting than the contents.
Recently leased from the city, the new space is the former gymnasium of the Ann Street Recreation Center. And though there's still more work to be done, the theater has erected a temporary semi-thrust stage and seating for 83. With its regular stage upstairs, this makes Fells Point Corner the only two-stage community theater in town.
And, the former gymnasium is spacious and generic enough that, with sufficient imagination, it could have almost unlimited potential in terms of flexible seating and stage configuration.
Regrettably, there isn't a lot pf imagination evident in the inaugural production. Directed and adapted from the Dickens story by Anthony Lane Hinkle, this hour-long "Christmas Carol" feels more pageant-like than dramatic.
This is reinforced by the use of townsfolk as narrators and by direction that emphasizes posing over action. Despite this, a few cast members display a naturalistic touch, particularly Richard Dean Stover, Maria Helena Diaz, Miranda Pakulski and Michelle Bar-av.
However, Chris Verrill's Scrooge screams his "bah-humbugs" in his nasty phase, and after the character sees the error of his ways, he screams for joy; both times, he seems a likely candidate for Bedlam.
But before being labeled a Scrooge myself, let me salute the performance opportunity this holiday presentation affords Fells Point Corner's young theater students. And, hallelujah for the new facility. As City Councilman John Cain said at the ribbon-cutting, in these budget-trimming times, it's impressive to have "a theater picking up the ball . . . where government is putting the ball down."
'A Christmas Carol'
When: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m., matinees Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. Through Dec. 14.
Where: Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St.
Call: (410) 276-7837.