“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” Provides Excellence in Theatre and Soul
In 1994 noted performer and novelist Tom Mula released a slightly different take on the classic we all know and love by Charles Dickens called “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol”. Now on stage, this story is being produced by the 3rd Act Theatre as a ‘Bonus’ production for Christmas. Doug Van Liew directs a cast of four on a very minimalist set, creating Mula’s version of “A Christmas Carol” from Marley’s viewpoint and treating the audience to a beautiful and poignant perspective.
Jacob Marley is dead, there is no doubt about that, and on the seventh anniversary of his death, he must visit his old partner, Ebenezer Scrooge. Marley is charged with inspiring a complete change in Scrooge to save his soul. Marley has only been in purgatory for seven years, it is but the blink of an eye in the face of eternity, yet he must find it within himself to save the soul of his partner though he is doomed to wander the halls of hell forever. He is assisted by a Bogle, or guide who is familiar with the setup in this department of the afterlife.
Doug Van Liew is responsible for the modest set design and is assisted by Michele Fields in stage managing. Fields and Dakota Lee Bryant also created the effective costume pieces, taking full advantage of the saying that less is more. Mikie Gillmore handles the lights and Amandanell Bold produces the sound. There are few props; a quill pen, some chains, and a candle to light the way, and the best of properties design by any director is used. That is the design from the imagination of the audience.
There are four cast members to play all the roles, and the cast creates each distinct character with ease. Don Taylor is Jacob Marley, played with humor, generosity and a strong moral attitude that a lifetime of greed could not erase. Nicholas Toscani is Ebenezer Scrooge, the old partner in business whose life partnership caused each to feed on bitterness. Toscani also skillfully creates additional roles. The Record Keeper, the entity Marley first meets with a complete accounting of his life, is played by David Mays. Mays creates the bureaucratic busybody type of Record Keeper feared by many in life with just a touch of malice to spice encouragement. Mays also plays many other roles as needed including Bob Cratchit. These three gentlemen are familiar to the 3rd Act’s patrons through the first two shows as well as the ‘drunken classics’ and their skill is evident in this production.
The Bogle and others are played by Caitlin Cairns in her debuts with the 3rd Act Theatre Company. Cairns is an excellent actress and a perfect addition to the 3rd Act Company and “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.” A Registered Drama Therapist, Cairns works with seniors in a retirement community, remaining active in theatre by writing and directing two musicals. Cairns is also a graduate of Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City and she received her Master’s in Drama Therapy at Kansas State University.
All four cast members contribute mightily to the overall production, creating a vision that playwright Tom Mula would surely be proud to see. It is not a typical Christmas story, but it is the best beloved Christmas story from a different and beautifully thoughtful origin. Faithful to the meaning of Christmas, “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” is truly a play for the mind, engaging the intellect as surely as it is engaging to the senses. To be successful in such a venture the director must have an overwhelmingly secure grasp of the intellectual side of theatre as well as an equally sure hold on the value of entertainment. Wonderful transitions pulling heartstrings and tickling the funny bone occur with this sublime cast of exceedingly talented actors. “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” is a perfect production of a perfect script with a brilliantly talented cast and a director of thoughtful artistic integrity.
“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” plays again the final weekend before Christmas-Friday, December 20, Saturday, December 21 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, December 22, at 2:30 pm at the 3rd Act Theatre Company located in the Shoppes at Northpark Mall. The address is 12100 N. May Avenue and the website is www.3rdacttheatre.com. This is a truly great Christmas show without the glitz and glitter but with the heart and soul.