As the days grow shorter and the weather gets bleaker, you can always count on Charles Dickens to warm things a bit. Though Yuletide has yet to arrive, there soon will be a wealth of productions of the well-loved writer's works. Here's a preliminary report:
Starting Monday, November 16, and running through December 5, Baltimore's Mechanic Theater presents "Penny by Penny: The Story of Ebenezer Scrooge," a Broadway-bound treatment of Dickens' holiday staple, "A Christmas Carol." Actor Richard Kiley plays Scrooge in the musical written by Sheldon Harnick, the bloke responsible for "Fiddler on the Roof." Tickets range from $15.50 to $24.50. Call 301/727-4102 for particulars.
Opening Thanksgiving Day, November 26, and running till January 1, the Harlequin Dinner Theater in Rockville presents "Oliver!," the Lionel Bart musical based on Dickens' novel "Oliver Twist." For information call 301/340-8515.
From November 27 to January 3, Ford's Theater offers its own musical version of "A Christmas Carol." To find out about tickets, priced from $9 to $16, call 347-4833.
Then, starting December 15 and running to New Year's Eve, the same fable serves for political satire in The Source Theater's production of "A Bonzo Christmas Carol" at D.C. Space. In the treatment by John Simmons, Scrooge bears an uncanny resemblance to Ronald Reagan, while Marley's Ghost, at least for some, evokes a fellow named Richard Nixon. Simmons says much of the material has been changed from last year's premier, the better to keep up with current events. Call 462-1073.
In the meantime, you might want to tune your radio to WAMU, 88.5 FM, at 12:05 on weekdays for the next week or so. For the show "Noon Edition," host Edward Merritt is reading excerpts from "The Old Curiosity Shop," another Dickens classic.