A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Goodman Theatre. Sporting red stocking caps, the busts encircling the Goodman auditorium seem to be having a Dickens of a time–just like the mortals below them. Now in its 20th coming, Goodman’s Christmas Carol reflects our needs as much as it reflects its source: Scrooge resembles a self-pitying, down-sizing workaholic bottom-liner, cynical and spiteful and sporting a dry, Letterman-like sarcasm; the Cratchits seem to verge on homelessness.

In his second year of milking the cash cow, director Henry Godinez has shortened the Fezziwig dance marathon, introduced a deaf character, moved up the intermission to follow the Ghost of Christmas Past, and left the accents to wander as they will. Always supple, Tom Creamer’s adaptation now seems loose-jointed and insistent: voice-overs intone Scrooge’s errors–as if we’d overlook them.

Praise to Guy Adkins’s shortsighted young Scrooge, Laura Lamson’s abandoned Belle, Jonathan Weir’s grotesquely grave Jacob Marley, and Rick Snyder’s bumbling Bob Cratchit. Less effective are Ernest Perry Jr.’s stiff Fezziwig and Barbara Robertson’s tragedienne Ghost of Christmas Past (though her emoting wouldn’t stand out so much if the acting around her weren’t so flatly contemporary). Tom Mula, ending a seven-year reign of humor, has turned a killer role into a joy. Equally convincing as the bitter and better Scrooges, Mula makes his miserly malcontent stand for all sinners; saving himself, he rescues us. His will be a hard humbug to follow. –Lawrence Bommer