Based on "A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Adapted for the radio by Michael Gene Sullivan
A Red Carol at SF Mime Troupe
by Steve Murray
Ah the simple holiday joys of benevolent capitalism! Probably the most popular of the Xmas productions, Dicken's novella A Christmas Carol has been praised by socialists for its anti-capitalist sentiments. Written after the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the story of a miserly curmudgeon who sees the errors of his ways and becomes charitable is anything but socialist. Leave it to Tony-winning SF Mime Troupe and writer/director Michael Gene Sullivan to push the piece over the edge and squarely into their radical, pro-worker philosophy.
With the great success of their radio series presentation "Tales of Resistance", Sullivan takes the cherished nostalgia of charitable gift-giving and confronts capitalism without conscience by focusing on the left's principles of worker rights, union organization and enlightened employers. Infusing Dicken's with sentiments more closely aligned with Eugene V. Debs and Joe Hill, A Red Carol is a delight for the anti-Trump culture that divides America down the middle.
The first 15 minutes or so of this brief one-hour production follows Dickens closely, introducing Scrooge the banker and poor, hardworking Bob Cratchit. The narrator mentions England's Poor Laws, the workhouses with their inhumane conditions with the poor chained to a treadmill. Former ACT actor Mike McShane is fantastic as Scrooge and capably added by the voices of SF Mime regulars including Keiko Shimosato-Carreiro (The Ghost of Christmas Past); Wilma Bonet (The Ghost of Christmas Present); Michael Gene Sullivan (Bob Crachit); Velina Brown (Mrs. Crachit); Lisa Hori-Garcia (Belle); Amos Glick (Fezziwig); featuring: Jarion Monroe (The Ghost of Marley); Andre Amarotico (Fred); Milo CarterDaniels (Tiny Tim).
A radio play is all about the voices, sound effects and music and A Red Carol excels in each component. Using traditional labor songs written to the tune of Christmas carols and hymns enhances the narrative. "Dump the Bosses Off Your Back", "There Is Power in A Union" and the wonderful "The Banks Are Made of Marble" evoke the songs of Woodie Guthrie and Mimi Farina. The band includes Patrick Byers - Strings and Winds, David Rokeach Percussion and Daniel Savio - Keyboards.
A Red Carol is a leftist's dream wish for the Holiday season and every other day of the year. It hits hard at people who "weigh everything by profit" extolling the virtues of caring employers like Fezziwig. You must snicker when Tiny Tim mentions the inadequacy of the healthcare system, and cheer when Sullivan's dialogue attacks privatization, ruling class propaganda and the idea that ignorance and want will keep the poor entrenched in the stations.
Seasonal charity is a great concept, but SF Mime Troupe can't be satisfied with any trickle-down economics, Christmas time or not. Bravo comrades!