EVERYONE knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge: visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, he’s offered the chance to change his miserly ways and avoid eternal damnation in Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” But whatever happens to Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s equally stingy partner, who returns from hell to urge Scrooge to avoid a similar plight?
That’s the question behind Tom Mula’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” debuted by the English-language Little Theatre Group at a special dress-rehearsal performance last Thursday. In this fresh twist on the old Christmas classic, Scrooge moves out of the spotlight and Jacob Marley becomes the star of the show.
As the drama begins, we meet a characteristically grumpy Marley, played by Andrew Loveday, in the unsightly predicament of spending an eternity in hell. A sparse, black stage with only stars hanging from the ceiling to contrast with the total darkness creates a haunted “spirit world,” where Marley pleads with the grumpy Record Keeper, played by Andrew Macmillen, to change his sentence.
Not realizing what he’s getting himself into, Marley signs a contract whereby he can be released from his chains by saving Scrooge, which means convincing him to change his cold-hearted ways. And so we’re taken along on Marley’s journey, accompanied by his impish sidekick, the Bogle, who is assigned to help him complete his mission.
A bleak stage with minimal effects that might make for boredom in another production creates a fitting backdrop for the wintry action of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” which moves between the spirit world, belonging to Bogle and the Record Keeper, to the dreary quarters where Scrooge is haunted by a chain-clad, dusty Marley.
In fact, the set’s minimalism shines a brighter spotlight on the four actors, all of whom step up to the challenge of playing multiple parts.
Loveday transforms from a young Marley to the ghosts of Christmas past and Christmas present during his soul-shaking 24-hour journey, and Macmillen convincingly changes faces from the Record Keeper to a damned woman, Fezziwig, Scrooge’s nephew, Bob Cratchit, Dick Wilkins, Marley’s father and a shadow.
Joseph Loveday, Andrew Loveday’s real-life father, successfully depicts Scrooge’s transformation from a set-in-his ways miser to a generous man. Finally, Ida Persson’s portrayal of the pesky yet endearing Bogle adds a dose of humor to the tale’s somber message that those who err in this life will pay in the next.
IN addition to shifting between roles, the actors step away from their characters and perform tasks such as moving furniture around on stage, a technique director Lisa DeFuso called “black box directing.” They also alternate between speaking their lines and narrating their own character’s actions, creating the sense that they’re constantly leaving and re-entering the action. Again, though this technique seems jolting at first, it ultimately allows the audience to slip far into a Dickens-era London.
This Little Theatre Group production is a simple yet well-done, refreshing story that’s likely to put you in the holiday spirit and perhaps leave you wanting to revisit your Dickens.
The Little Theatre Group’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” will hold its final performances tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., at the Blanche Brown Theatre in the western suburb of Escazú. For reservations or information, call 355-1623 or visit www.intertica.com/ltg.htm.