Review: Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol

by Alec Clayton

Left to right: John-Serembe and Drew Doyle

The so far wildly successful merging of Broadway Olympia Productions and Theater Artists Olympia continues on a high note with TAO’s production of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” by Tom Mula, with Drew Doyle as Marley, John Serembe as Ebenezer Scrooge, Ryan Holmberg as the Record Keeper and other characters, and Kate Ayers as the sprite Bogle.

So yes, Marley is dead. Deader than (a recitation of a whole list of lifeless things). And he has been cast into hell, where even he admits he belongs. To save himself from eternal damnation, Marley, chained and shackled, is told he must find a way to redeem Ebenezer Scrooge. Marley shouts, “Scrooge? I have to redeem old Scrooge? The one man I knew who was worse than I was? Impossible!”

It is a retelling of Charles Dickens’s classic tale updated with a modern style and attitude but still set in Victorian England. It begins as the original does, with, “Marley was dead to begin with…” but in this case stated by Marley himself. Each of the four characters narrates their own stories, stepping in and out of character definitively yet unobtrusively.

Ryan Martin Holmberg

He has 24 hours to save old Scrooge and consequently himself by convincing Scrooge to change into a kind-hearted man. He is given his very own hell sprite, Bogle, to guide him, help him, and in some cases make the task even more impossible than it already is. Together with Bogle, Marley goes on a terrifying, soul-searching, and ultimately heartwarming journey through hell and through Christmas past, present and future.

Marley’s journey through time and memory is a journey of laughter and terror. Some are outlandishly funny, but in places, such as when Marley meets his abusive father and himself as a young boy, it is heartrending, poignant and painful. Few plays pull so many divergent heartstrings. Credit that to Mula’s intelligent writing, to Pug Bujeaud’s direction, and to the fine acting of all four actors.

Ayers as Bogle is constantly surprising and full of energy; Doyle as Marley seems to have a rubber face, or as comically indicated, a banana face which he peels, Serembe as Scrooge is perfectly and hilariously horrible, and Holmberg as the Record Keeper is strong, unforgiving, and absolutely humorless through much of the show. Each of these actors portrays a range of emotions appropriate to their multi-dimensional characters.

Left to right: Drew Doyle and Kate Ayers

The set by Pargo Design consists of a bunch of boxes that serve as risers, as Marley’s bed, as desks and chairs, and backdrop projections of AI art made to look like etchings of London street scenes from the Victorian era. Simple and quite classy.

The show runs approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Masks are encouraged but not required.

Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol

7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday as 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through Dec. 23

Broadway Olympia Productions’ Black Box Theater, Westfield Capital Mall,
625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia



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