Jeff Garrett has a lot on his mind this holiday season. Make that a lot of people.
The local actor mentally juggles beloved Charles Dickens characters — Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim and Scrooge — in an ambitious one-man show, “Scrooge: The Haunting of Ebenezer.”
The “Christmas Carol” reboot, at the Boxcar Theatre, finds Garrett showcasing every character in ways audiences may not have seen before.
“Patrick Stewart had done a pretty famous one-man ‘Christmas Carol’ but he never took it to San Francisco,” Garrett says of the show’s genesis. “I thought, there are always ‘Christmas Carols’ being done, so I wanted a real actors’ ‘Christmas Carol.’ It’s a really powerful story and it really plays like the wind.”
Garrett adapted the work from the original text by Dickens, whittling 58 pages down to about 25.
“I think what makes a really good one-man show stand apart is that it has a strong, rising, active through line,” he says. “This is such a story of transformation, and what we are accentuating is the ghost-story aspect.”
He points out that Dickens’ work was originally written as a ghost story and the “ghost” element was the catalyst for the character’s transformation.
“He is scared out of his mind by these visitations of these spirits. It’s those shocks that allow him to shed those chains that have kept him in this stingy place— what we all think of as this stereotypical Scrooge mode.”
Something else may have helped fuel Garrett’s drive to bring the tale to life: Psychology. He used to be a therapist.
Originally from New York City, Garrett moved to the Bay Area three years ago, gave up his practice and went back to acting, which he had done long ago.
“Being a therapist was great, but it didn’t quite scratch that itch of self-expression,” says Garrett, who has appeared in “Assassins” at Berkeley’s Shotgun Theatre, among other productions.
He chuckles when asked if his work as a therapist has helped him as an actor. “Oh God, so much,” he says. “Being a therapist has made me much more accepting of behind-the-scenes conflicts. And, as an actor, it’s just made me more compassionate towards characters I would play, and to be much more compassionate to the world of the theater.”