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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 10, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 50
Jacob Marley presents dark version of A Christmas Carol
Arts & Entertainment
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Jacob Marley presents dark version of A Christmas Carol

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Jacob Marley's
Christmas Carol
Seattle Public Theater
Through December 24


How 'bout that poor Marley fellow, who comes back from the dead to warn Scrooge about how awful the afterlife could be? What did he do to deserve such a fate? How come nobody bothered to come and warn him, first?

Tom Mula looked at Dickens' A Christmas Carol from a different perspective and created a one-man show in 1988 that was a retelling of the famous story from Marley's point of view. Mula's presentation feels very Book-It in style, since it's a literary translation with lots of book-style descriptions: 'Marley's face was the kind of face that looked like a prune' of that sort of narrative. Mula's one-man show was adapted in 2001 into a four-person staging that is being done at Seattle Public Theater this winter season.

It's a dark version of the tale, and SPT, as directed by Keith Dahlgren, does it darkly. There is very little light on the stage, which may be on purpose, but it may be too literal. Still, let's stipulate that the dark subject should be taken to be a bit spooky. It deals with a murky afterlife. There is also little creative effort to populate the stage with any of the creepy and decrepit descriptions as they are uttered. It's almost anti-theatrical, depending heavily on the actors and their voices and mannerisms for all the adornments.

Fortunately, the four strong actors are generally up to the challenge. James Lapan is Marley, who starts out hateful and dour and has one chance to redeem himself from a horrible fate by changing Scrooge's heart. He is accosted by a Record Keeper, played with gusto by Alyssa Keene, who plays other assorted parts as well, who relishes Marley's failure to complete his life-contract. Patrick Lennon plays an imp or bogle sent to assist Marley in his transition, and provides the rest of the fun (Keene providing what other fun is to be had), sort of like Jiminy Cricket in Scroogeworld. Vincent Delany plays Scrooge, who has to make the expected transformation.

Marley is given this opportunity to change Scrooge's heart and thinks he'll scare Scrooge by showing up as a ghost. He finds out that this afterworld allows him to stop or reverse time and that he can don disguises. So, he becomes the other three ghosts that appear to Scrooge.

Marley's discoveries make a logical connection to the Dickens story to allow Marley to do all the work necessary to bring Scrooge to his past and his future. In doing so, Marley finds his own past - clearly a lonely, neglected, and teased little boy - and realizes how he had decided to make sure that he would triumph over others rather than let them triumph over him. When Marley succeeds in changing Scrooge's heart for the better, Marley, too, finds the redemption and good purpose he needs for himself.

The play does seem to cry out for some creative puppetry or props to pop in, at least a little. But the spare production succeeds if you attend closely to the words, as if being read a story. The actors are particularly good at the varieties of British accents they employ. For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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