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Weathervane stages ‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol’

12/6/2012 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

From left, Larry Nehring and Jason Maurer star in Weathervane Playhouse’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — Charles Dickens is dead, to begin with. The folks at Weathervane Playhouse should be glad Dickens is dead. Although, his spirit might return and punish them for “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” which is on stage through Dec. 22.

Marley was Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner. This retelling of the famous “A Christmas Carol” is told from Marley’s point of view.

The promotional materials about this product make reference to its being “a playful twist,” “hilarious and heart-rending” and “comic re-imagining” — unfortunately the production doesn’t match any of these promises. On Dec. 1, when I saw the production, the audience laughed little.

Tom Mula wrote a novel titled, “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.” Later, he adapted the novel to the stage. That is the adaptation now playing at Weathervane.

Mula created several problems for the cast. The story is performed by four actors. That means the actors played several characters. Unfortunately, some of the actors in this production had trouble remembering which character he/she was playing at any given moment on the stage.

Second, the characters spoke the stage directions and told the audience what a character was doing, thinking or planning.

This production has problems besides a tepid script. Larry Nehring directed the production and played Marley. Seldom have I seen a person be able to direct and perform in a show without causing multiple problems. Because he was on the stage, Nehring couldn’t sit in the back of the house and gauge the actors’ volume or diction. The most frustrating problem was that the other three actors didn’t speak with enough volume to be heard throughout the theater. Bethany Stahler (Actor 4) had a problematic microphone and couldn’t be heard through much of the first act of the show. 

Other performers garbled lines and some seemed to forget their lines. Background music and sound effects sometimes covered actors’ lines.

Scenic and lighting designer Alan Scott Ferrall designed a set that fit nicely on the stage’s turntable. But despite the fact the cast surely had rehearsed on the set, they often seemed to lose their balance when the turntable started turning or stopped turning. Maybe a few more rehearsals would help the cast learn to manage their equilibrium. 

Costume designer Jasen Smith created historically accurate costumes for the Dickens’ era in London. Since three of the performers played several characters each, they had to be able to change costumes quickly and bring a new character to the stage. Smith made the fast costume changes possible for the cast.

This production doesn’t invite the family out for an evening of Christmas cheer. This is sad. Weathervane should invest its resources in excellent scripts and work to attract fine directors and performers.

For ticket information, call 330-836-2626.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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