AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Tom Mula
Directed by Jon Tracy
Presented by Marin Theatre Company
Boyer Theatre
397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA / (415) 388-5208

Reviewed by Judy Richter

"Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol" puts a different twist on "A Christmas Carol," the 1843 holiday favorite by Charles Dickens.

Instead of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge as the central character, playwright Tom Mula focuses on his late business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley has been dead for seven years when his ghost appears on Christmas Eve to warn Scrooge that he needs to change his ways or be eternally condemned.

The play looks at how Marley came to make that appearance and what happened to him and Scrooge thereafter.

In the production by Marin Theatre Company, four actors, often assisted by two stagehands, portray varied characters, but each has a principal character. Khris Lewin is Marley, while Nicholas Pelczar is Scrooge. Stacy Ross plays the Record Keeper, and Rami Margron is the Bogle.

Burdened by the chains of misdeeds that he forged in his life, Marley is called before the Record Keeper, who gives him a chance to redeem himself. He must somehow get the miserly Scrooge to change his ways and find the joy of Christmas.

Marley's guide for this daunting task is the Bogle, a phantom or goblin.

Marley's first step is to appear before Scrooge and warn him, a scene that's similar to the one in Dickens' tale. This doesn't work too well, but Marley decides to go back to a time when Scrooge wasn't so miserly.

Act 2 of this two-act play differs from Dickens' format with the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future because Christmas Past emphasizes Marley's youth. He and Scrooge navigate the present together, but Scrooge is on his own for the future. There's redemption for both in the end.

To start with, Nina Ball's bare-bones set features a metal catwalk running diagonally overhead with a ghost light on the stage. (In accord with theatrical tradition, one bare lightbulb is left burning on stage when a theater is unoccupied. It's a safety measure as well as a way to scare off any ghosts.)

Kurt Landisman's mostly dark lighting is often augmented by the actors' hand-held flashlights or by spotlights wielded by the actors or stagehands from the sides of the stage. Heidi Leigh Hanson's basic costumes are the same for all: blue work shirts and jeans with suspenders. Hats and other additions allow them to change character.

Composer Chris Houston's often chilling sound design is integral to the atmosphere.

Even though the reviewed performance was the final preview, everything went smoothly under the direction of Jon Tracy. All four versatile, actors are excellent.

Publicity for the show says it's suitable for ages 6 and up, but it might be too scary for some of the younger set. For adults, though, it's a intriguing look at a yuletide classic.

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