NextStop Theatre Company Jacob Marley’s Christmas CarolBy David Siegel • Dec 16th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
NextStop Theatre Company: (Info) (Web)
Industrial Strength Theater, Herndon, VA
Through December 29th
2:00 with intermission
$25-$27 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed December 14th, 2013
Confident acting and smart direction make Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol a go-to production for those looking for something new and purposefully off-center during the Holiday season. It has the feel of story-telling around a warm camp fire; it is theater where the human-voice and gestures of one-actor (Ray Ficca) make the difference between just a same-old Holiday-themed show and something more. It is an active production with some pointed edges and humor to go along with its redemptive ending.
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 170 year old classic “A Christmas Carol” but with a twist. There are far fewer “Humbugs” uttered by Scrooge and less focus on Tiny Tim in the work crafted by playwright Tom Mula. The story is not centered upon Ebenezer Scrooge’s life, but that of Jacob Marley, his deceased, departed business partner. The show opens with those well-known words first penned by Dickens, that “Marley is dead. There is no doubt whatever about that. Marley is dead.”
From those words to “Scrooge? I have to redeem old Scrooge?” uttered by Ficca as Marley, the show lifts off with Ficca taking on 18 quite different characters, each with their own persona. Several of the different characters are deeply established through Ficca’s inflections, movements and mannerisms. He becomes the wagon-master narrator of the production bringing along Marley, Scrooge, Bogle, Fred, Fezziwig, Cratchit, a Record Keeper, The Shadow, and others.
Ficca is a twenty-year veteran of the stage. He has served as the President of The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Washington, DC and is a member of the professional Actors Equity Association. Production director Rob McQuary is a multi-Helen Hayes Award nominee both as an actor and as a director.
In an earlier interview, director McQuay indicated that “We all know the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his miraculous redemption on Christmas Eve. But what about Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s departed, doomed, and chained business partner?” said McQuay. It is a “behind-the-scenes retelling of one of the most famous holiday stories of all time” from the perspective of Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner in the classic Dickens’ tale.
As written by Mula, the ghost of the departed Marley has a major journey of his own to make or he will be tormented forever. He is condemned, as well, to help Scrooge find a way to redemption. In some ways Mula uses Virgil’s “The Aeneid” and Dante’s “Inferno” as guideposts. Even taking one of Dante’s lines; well almost, “Here all hope is certainly abandoned.”
Ficca can makes words come alive with his gestures; especially colorful adjectives and the action of verbs. He can go from gruffness and remorse to effervescence and glee in a nano-second. And he does it over the two-hour length of the production, no easy feat at all, given that he is all alone on stage so near to the audience.
The set design (Jennifer McDuffee) for Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol is visually effective; consisting of three distinct play areas composed of risers, steps and furnishings allowing for action between, around and on to enliven the production.
The lighting (Steve Holiday) and sound design (Ben Allen) are invaluable to the audience’s enjoyment. Lighting gives an aura of winter darkness befitting the themes of the play. Sounds include well-placed echoes, with accomplished thunder, lightning and wind adding to the camp-fire charm of the production. Props include a joyous use of a metal chain as a noise maker and a “tinker-bellish” pink light. There is pre-show music that greets the audience including instrumentals of Christmas favorites played with hammered dulcimer and guitar.
The play is done in two acts. Act I speeds by in a quick hour with its comic effects and introduction of so many characters. And, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Act II has a longer feel even with its shorter 45 minute run time. It has a more serious tone to it until the final black-out.
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol illustrates that hope is always possible; that everyone deserves a second chance to open their heart at least a crack. It is well worth a trip to Herndon’s Industrial Strength Theater and the Dulles Corridor’s newest professional theater company.
Photos by Jonathan Harvey
- Ray Ficca
- Director: Rob McQuay
- Production Coordinator: Jennifer Lambert
- Stage Manager: Laura Moody
- Assistant Stage Manager: Barbara Maltseva
- Technical Director: David Phelps
- Scenic Designer: Jennifer McDuffee
- Costumes: Kathy Dunlap
- Lighting Designer: Steve Holiday
- Sounds Designer: Ben Allen
- Properties Designers: Jennifer Lambert, Evan Hoffman, and Sierra Banack
Disclaimer: NextStop Theatre Company provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9992.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.