By Daniel Skora
Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner in Charles Dickens’ famous story “A Christmas Carol” is one of those fictional characters who seems not to have been given a fair shake by the author who created him. Marley may have been a disagreeable and greedy person just like his partner, but to wander the world with all those chains and cashboxes wrapped around your body (spirit chains and cashboxes evidently having the same effect on a spirit “body” as real ones do on a real person) without ever being given the opportunity to sit down and rest seems today like cruel and unusual punishment… especially when you consider that Marley is trying to do a good deed like securing Scrooge a chance to avoid a similar fate.
To the rescue comes another playwright, Tom Mula, to see if he can rectify that wrong even while adding to the ever growing list of additions, permutations, and parodies that when considered in toto have made “A Christmas Carol” a ponderous saga indeed. “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol”, currently being presented by the Williamston Theatre, began life as a novel. It moved on to become a one-man stage play with the author himself playing all the parts, and seems to have evolved into having a cast of four.
Jacob Marley (Mark Colson) has died and finds himself in front of The Record Keeper (Patrick Loos), the guy before whom you stop on your way to your final reward (kind of like a secular St. Peter). But fortunately for Marley, he’s given one last chance to redeem himself before being condemned to the Netherworld. To save his own soul, he must first save the soul of Ebenezer Scrooge (Ruth Gordon). To assist him on his journey, he’s given an assistant, the impish Bogle (Rosie Sullivan), a sprite-like character who’s both humorous and malicious. Marley’s journey takes him to a variety of places, including the early years of both himself and Scrooge.
“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” is theatrical in every sense of the word. Every actor is assigned to play multiple roles, which they do largely without costume changes. In addition, they are called upon to be both character and narrator, speaking words that can be either dialogue or narration. Attention to which character an actor is speaking as, and whether they’re functioning as that person or as a narrator is crucial. A firm grip on Dickens’ original story is also a must. The set is a minimalist affair, a brick wall for a background out of which flows a sloping white mound that looks like it could serve as a toboggan hill for elves.
In the long run, the story the play sets out to tell gets gobbled up by the theatrics. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to get too abstract with any Christmas story, either the traditional kind or the newly created. “A Christmas Carol” and all those other great traditional stories that revolve around the date of December 25th are rich in the simple, colorful imagery of the holiday season. Terror, a trip to hell, and a presentation much too intricate do not a good Christmas story make.
“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” is directed by Julia Glander. Set design is by Matthew Imhoff with lighting by Shannon Schwitzer. Costume design is by Amber Marisa Cook and sound is by John Lepard.
“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” runs through December 20th.
Tickets can be purchased Tuesday-Friday from 12-6pm by calling 517.655.7469 or visiting the Williamston Theatre box office. They can also be ordered online up until 24 hours prior to a performance at www.williamstontheatre.org. The Williamston Theatre is located at 122 S. Putnam Road in downtown Williamston (Exit 117 off of I-96).