Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol

You might expect that seeing "A Christmas Carol" told from the perspective of Ebenezer Scrooge's deceased partner Jacob Marley would be the most nontraditional aspect of this play.

You'd be wrong.

The show is strangely structured and strangely told. The actors break the fourth wall, looking at and talking to the audience. They wander around a mostly empty stage and describe the imagined scenery around them. They even narrate their own actions, then switch abruptly to dialogue with the other characters.

The show is sort of experimental and avant-garde, and that isn't for everyone. But if you decide to sit this one out, you'll be missing out on some excellent performances. Despite the minimal set and effects, the actors succeed in creating an intense atmosphere, making the nightmarish hellscape Marley is forced to wander and the larger-than-life spirits he encounters come to life with their words.

Curtis Ransom is excellent as Marley, bringing forth the man's sour disposition, fears, and madness, and transforming his character nicely as his character redeems himself and as he played the part of Scrooge's sometimes jovial, sometimes frightening visiting spirits. Bradley Campbell is equally bitter as Scrooge, but like Curtis Ransom, he does fine work depicting his character's transformation and has some fantastic reactions to the spirits. Courtney Ransom was impish as the Bogle, Marley's guide in the afterlife, and Lee Vander Boegh did a nice job as the endlessly amused recordkeeper.

The cast does a great job of getting past the strange aspects of the play and telling the story -- and it's a great version of the story. It's fascinating to watch Marley face his own demons and redeem himself.

Overall, the actors and director Jennifer Dunn keep the show grounded, giving it an emotional punch and keeping it entertaining. They made the story relatable and intriguing -- a difficult feat for a script that could have made for a very pretentious evening of theater. Instead, it's a wonderful show for the Christmas season, and that's all due to them. My Santa hat is off to them.

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