Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol
Running December 22, 23 at 8:30 p.m.,
The Village Playhouse
730 Coleman Blvd.
8656-1579, www.villageplayhouse.com

Despite a clever premise and a fairly solid performance, Village Repertory Company’s Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol isn’t entirely clicking. While Village Rep should be applauded for eschewing the usual holiday fare and taking a risk on a play that’s decidedly darker and perhaps more interesting, the production — a one-man show starring its director, George Younts — isn’t quite satisfying on all the levels it needs to serve.

Jacob Marley examines, obviously, the other side of the season’s second most familiar story. Marley’s redemption, it appears, depends on a change of Scrooge’s heart. We get to see Marley’s descent into hell, his dealings with Hell’s “record-keeper,” and his efforts to change Scrooge with the help of a “Bogle,” an effeminate hell-spirit. Yes, it sounds weird, and playwright Tom Mula takes liberties with the classic. But if you roll with it, it’s an engaging story.

One of the problems, however, is that it’s too long for what it is — or at least for the state it’s in. Younts plays several different parts: Marley, Scrooge, the Bogle, the Record-keeper, the spirits, and the Narrator of the story. But there’s a reason most one-person shows don’t last two hours: That much material is a lot for a single person to bear. Younts visibly tires, increasingly flubbing lines and showing signs of weariness.

The occasional dryness and confusion could perhaps be eliminated with some tweaking on Younts’ part. He has moments of beautiful acting. His characterizations are strong, especially in their physicality, and he uses a simple jacket to aid in his transformations. But sometimes his change from one character to the next falls on the last word of one character, rather than the first word of the next character, losing the word in the shuffle. Further compounding the problem is the play’s use of narration in character, rather than keeping narration in the Narrator’s voice at all times. So we get Scrooge commenting on his own actions, in character, which may lead some to question, “Is that Scrooge or the Narrator?” If you aren’t ready to accept the play as a person telling the story, and instead are getting sucked into it as a variety of real characters unfold a real story, then you’re likely to feel yanked in and out of the imaginary world which the actor works so hard to create.

The sound design by Peter DuPuis is excellently done — more of his effects, and, perhaps, music, would have invigorated the show even more and kept a tone in accord with the action nicely.

Like Marley, floating between life and the afterlife, this production floats somewhere between good and something else, in that “fair” zone. But as with any holiday show, the message is arguably most important. People eventually become what they love … or hate, Bogle says, and that’s what’s at the heart of this play, whether it’s this version of the story or Dickens’. Being consumed by anything other than goodness will get you in the end, and that’s a morality tale for the ages. This play offers redemption, much like what is behind the season. Second chances, forgiveness, love, charity, family … whether or not a production is perfect (and whether or not it bludgeons us with its message like a Christmas ham to the noggin, as this one does), these are good thoughts for people to walk away with — and hold onto.

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