Young woman seated on bed in background, while another young woman stands with hands clutched in front of her face in attitude of excitement. Young man in black coat stands with his back to camera in front of the standing young woman.
Eb & Belle with Theatre Above the Law Credit: Tyler Core

When the Ghost of Christmas Past visits decrepit miser Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, one painful memory the ghost has him swoop back over concerns a delightful young girl named Belle, who Scrooge was supposed to marry until greed eclipsed tenderness in his heart and she broke off the engagement. Adjusting the perspective largely over to Belle’s side, filling in blanks about their courtship, and daring to ask his crystal ball what it was like to date Scrooge, or “Eb,” playwright Ryan Stevens has devised a credible and charming stretch of backstory for holiday playgoers here, which runs with Theatre Above the Law at Jarvis Square Theater through mid-December. Audiences are liable to find Eb’s (Travis Shanahan) flinty junior accountant shtick as endearing as Belle (Brittany Vogel) does, before incessant profit margin talk—and visitations of her own from a string of ghosts—raise corrosive doubts for her about the long-named cutie and his ledger book.

Eb & Belle
Through 12/19: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Mon 11/29, 7:30 PM, Jarvis Square Theater, 1439 W. Jarvis,, $15-$23.

A good deal of Stevens’s faux-Victorian dialogue suffers from indistinct old-timeyness, which makes even very good period costume dramas feel like they’re happening inside of snow globes. Michael Dalberg, doubling as Marley and the “Spirit of Love to Come” who visits Belle last, meets the archaism of his lines with just the right voice and physicality to purge the dust out of them. Others fare more unevenly. Still, Christmas shows are for the inner fuddy-duddy in us all, and judging from my night, I can easily see Stevens’s show becoming an annual tradition. Tony Lawry directs.