A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Israel Horovitz’s two-act, 100-minute version of Dickens’s 1843 novella preserves more of the writer’s commentary than, say, Tom Creamer’s adaptation for Goodman Theatre: our narrator and tour guide is Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased and disgraced partner. Marley also stage-manages the other ghosts and plays tricks on Scrooge; but otherwise Horovitz is faithful to the fine formula, moving Scrooge “from money to man.”

Matthew Reeder’s staging is the first original work produced by Metropolis (which has only presented shows thus far). The pacing is somewhat slow, and the production lacks the dazzle the Goodman can afford; it also relies too much on a menacing sound design instead of seasonal songs. But, inspired by Horovitz’s passionate adaptation, it’s homespun and forthright and enlists our imagination–which is special effect enough.

Holding things together with an authorial gravity worthy of Dickens, Daniel Scott’s Marley presents this cautionary tale as a lecture come to life (though why dead Marley should tell the tale in the first place is a mystery). Delivering his lines somewhat tentatively on opening night, Stephen Connell as Scrooge goes from dour to desperate without a hitch, but when the character starts to “get” Christmas, Connell is less convincing. James Wm. Joseph warms up Bob Cratchit, and as Tiny Tim little Ryan Burk gets more lines than Goodman ever entrusts to its tots.