One is reminded of those Japanese commercials featuring American actors who would never dream of appearing in ads on American television. This at the news that CalShakes artistic director Jonathan Moscone and associate artist James Carpenter snuck off to Dallas last year to do A Christmas Carol with Carpenter debuting as Ebenezer Scrooge. Why don't we ever get the elegant, composed Carpenter as Scrooge here? At least we'll be getting him as Jim Jones when the Berkeley Rep opens its production of The People's Temple, a "theatrical inquiry into the Jonestown tragedy." Carpenter has a gift for imbuing his characters with tremendous dignity, even when they're surrounded by, oh, say, puppets (last season's Comedy of Errors). The best recent example of his natural grace is the fashion show scene in Fêtes de la Nuit, where he came out in a massive skirt and nothing else, looking for all the world as though he were wearing Armani. Besides dignity, Carpenter also has subtlety and wit to burn, whether he's a frustrated man of the cloth (Ibsen's Ghosts at the Berkeley Rep), a drunken ne'er-do-well (Night of the Iguana, Mountain View), or any of the royalty he has so ably portrayed. Carpenter is an actor to watch -- when he hasn't snuck off somewhere.