Premiere puts new twist on classic tale

OCEANSIDE — One month after moving in to The Brooks Theatre, the Oceanside Theatre Company premiered “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” on Dec. 16. The dark comedy retells the story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” from Jacob Marley’s point of view. “There’s plenty of humor in it, but it’s darker than the normal Christmas show,” Christopher Williams, artistic director of Oceanside Theatre Company, said. Four actors perform as multiple characters and periodically address the audience as narrators to tell the story of Marley’s quest for redemption from his self-created hell after he dies.

To create the different characters, actors use every muscle of their posture and facial expression. “It’s very physical,” actor Richard Johnson, who plays Jacob Marley, said. “I enjoy that kind of work.” The stark set with a catwalk and a few key props helps viewers suspend disbelief as the actors slip in and out of different roles and the story moves to different locations.

“You see the actors working and not hiding theatrical tricks,” Williams said. “It requires actors who have really good technique. It’s a very fun, very different show to see.” To gain redemption, Marley is signed into contract by the Record Keeper, played by Bernard Kopsho, to persuade his longtime partner and fellow curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Adam Oliveras, to repent. Marley completes this task with the help of Bogle a mischievous guardian angel, played by Gedaly Guberek. Along the way Marley runs into Scrooge’s past ghosts and his own. “They were partners and very much the same person,” Williams said. “Marley is just as bad as Scrooge.” In the end the cantankerous Marley becomes the beloved hero. “It’s about coming together and finding your heart,” Guberek said. “It’s about connecting.” Some surprises include giant marionette puppets, a door with a talking face, and visible Foley artist Cassidy Mitchell, who creates more than 100 sound effects on stage.

The cast of actors and behind the scene designers and directors all volunteered their services for the production. “Professionals are doing it for free to help this theater come to life,” Williams said. “We’re hoping to be able to pay them at some point. It is a job. Our goal is to make it through the first season.” Audience members had plenty of kudos for the Oceanside Theatre Company’s premiere performance. “Marley was mesmerizing,” Brian Shepherd, an Oceanside resident, said. “”I’m still laughing.” “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 24.

The Brooks Theatre is located at 217 N. Coast Highway 101. For more information, visit oceansidetheatre.org. Hold a door open for someone. You might be glad you did. Merry Christmas!

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