The version of A Christmas Carol currently playing at Park Square Theatre isn’t your typical holiday fare, and it shouldn’t be confused with the other Christmas Carol playing across the river. This is Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol—the familiar story as told through the eyes of Scrooge’s deceased business partner.
Jim Lichtscheidl plays Marley in this production. He also plays Scrooge and Bob Cratchit; in fact, he plays all 18 characters in this inventive one-man telling of the timeless story.
Written by Tom Mula, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol tells the familiar tale of that fateful Christmas Eve and reveals that Marley’s influence on Scrooge’s destiny is much greater than the original telling suggests. The play begins shortly after Marley’s death. Chained and shackled for his past offenses, Marley is bound to eternal hell. Marley’s only chance at redemption is to redeem his former partner Scrooge in one night’s time.
|jacob marley’s christmas carol, playing through december 20 at park square theatre. for tickets ($36) and information, see parksquaretheatre.org.|
What seems like an insurmountable task for Marley has the potential to be an even greater task for Lichtscheidl. He is charged with presenting a multi-layered, multi-character story with a minimal set and no support from other actors.
This is the second year Lichtscheidl, Park Square, and director Richard Cook have staged Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol. Having not seen last year’s production but having read Betsy Mowry’s review, I think it’s safe to assume the humor has been bumped up a notch. I walked into the theater with some hesitation, not knowing how I’d fare with two hours and one actor. However, I exited feeling far more entertained than I could have expected.
Although Lichtscheidl is alone onstage, Marley is not alone in his quest. He is most notably joined by a spirit, Bogle, a small creature resembling Marley and guiding him along the way. Lichscheidl effortlessly portrays the miniature Bogle, infusing the play with lively humor and narration.
Through the familiar story’s retelling, many revelations are made. As the play moves forward, we learn it was Marley conjuring the ghost of Christmas past and guiding Scrooge along his path to redemption. We also learn that while Scrooge was facing his past, Marley was on a parallel journey, reliving his childhood on his own journey to redemption.
Choosing to present this complicated retelling with one actor is a risk, but the choice pays off thanks to Lichtscheidl’s performance(s). The play allows Lichtscheidl to immerse himself in several characters and challenges the audience to think about the true motivations behind each character’s actions. Still, the play is easily accessible to audiences familiar with Dickens’s original story, as Lichtscheidl enacts the characters in such different ways there is little room for confusion. The humor involving Bogle and other various characters keeps the audience engaged.
The stage’s simple set, consisting of four benches of varying sizes, only highlights Lichtscheidl’s ability to bring the story to life with merely words and his body, while Michael P. Kittel’s lighting provides context and background.
The Christmas Carol currently being presented at Park Square isn’t simply a retelling of the classic story, it’s a reinvention. While it’s surely an exhausting adventure each night for its sole actor, the exhaustion is never experienced by the audience, which is kept engaged through humor and revelations. It may be slightly unconventional, but this is one holiday show that shouldn’t be missed this season. Catch it while you can.
|This event is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.|