Gary Koseyan of Montclair, Tom Sherlock of Rutherford, Jim and Joan Griffin of Montclair. reading at rehearsal Sunday. ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

‘Peter Cratchit, Esq.’
Staged reading of a new play by Kerr Lockhart

Sunday, Dec. 17, 5 p.m.

Music from BARD at 4:30 p.m.
St. James Players

St. James Episcopal Church, 581 Valley Road
Free, Q and A to follow


Not everyone touches as many lives as George Bailey does in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” After all, George ran a building and loan company, and saved his younger brother from death.

But everyone wonders what would happen had their lives taken a different turn.

In Kerr Lockhart’s new play “Peter Cratchit, Esq.,” Bob Cratchit’s  son wishes he’d taken a different path. He’s suffering what the playwright calls “Christmas burnout.”

The play will have a staged reading at St. James Episcopal Church on Sunday, Dec. 17.

The play, set 40 years after the events of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol,” looks at Bob Cratchit’s oldest son, Peter, who’s been running a foundation.

He’s burned out. He’s weary.

He’s visited by the ghosts of his father, Jacob Marley and Scrooge — whose name wouldn’t be a synonym for miserliness in that universe.


“In his world, he was never famous until he became generous,” Lockhart pointed out. “If you lived in Scrooge’s universe, ‘Scrooge’ would be a word for generosity and good-heartedness.”

Lockhart, who lives in Teaneck, made his debut in the St. James Players with his performance of Duke Frederick in their production of “As You Like It” in September.

An audition notice on Facebook caught Lockhart’s eye. “Not many community theaters focus on Shakespeare,” he said.

Joan Griffin, the president of the St. James Players’ board, served as producer and stage manager for “As You Like It.” Griffin said that Lockhart approached the board at the end of the run and said, “I’ve got an idea for you.”

“It’s hitting home for me personally,” said Griffin, who will also perform in the reading. “My husband works in a not-for-profit educational software company. I’ve had the pillow talk of ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this. It’s so hard.’

“Then somebody says something about what a difference it made, and he gets that little lift.”

Her husband, Jim, plays the title role. Griffin, a Montclair resident, added that she is about to be unemployed in her current job at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

“Peter wants to give up doing charity and just be a business person.

“I want to stop being a business person and do what he’s doing! The whole board felt it was a terrific play,” she said. “Everybody in ‘As You Like It’ was saying ‘I want in.’”

Lockhart asked Jim Vagias (Vy-as, the g is silent), who has worked with him many times

Jim Vagias directs the actors in a rehearsal of “Peter Cratchit, Esq.” ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

before, to direct. Vagias, of East Brunswick, is artistic producing director of the American Theatre Group, in residence at SOPAC.

For Vagias, the mashup of two classic stories is part of the appeal. He said,”Every company has done ‘Christmas Carol’ in one version or another. This is fascinating. It’s ‘Christmas Carol’ without being ‘Christmas Carol.’”

Lockhart hadn’t finished the play when he first approached the company, saying “I was walking around with this play for a couple of years, and didn’t have an end.”

Then a friend had a Christmas party in February, and he had his ending: Christmas in August, when the play takes place.

Unlike George Bailey, who wishes he had never been born, Peter Cratchit wishes to do something different.

Griffin said that she sees what her husband goes through, and realizes that you can’t save everyone but saving one person can make a difference: “It’s not religious religious, but it’s still the spirit of Christmas, and what it means.”



from “Peter Cratchit, Esq.”

MERRY: Don’t you want to help people? Don’t you care anymore? Have you lost the spirit of Christmas?
PETER: Ah, there, you have put your finger on it, Miss Price.
MERRY: What do you mean?
PETER: What do you mean by the spirit of Christmas, exactly, Miss Price?
MERRY: Well, you know, happiness, and giving, and kindness and good cheer and that sort of thing.
PETER: And why do we call these traits of ordinary human decency, “the spirit of Christmas”?
MERRY: Because the season is there to remind us of how we should be.
PETER: To compel us.
MERRY: No. It’s not as though– Well, yes, in a sense–
PETER: That is, to be compulsory.

One reply on “It’s a wonderful Christmas burnout: ‘Peter Cratchit, Esq.’ in Montclair”