Saturday, December 10, 2011

Actors' Playhouse: Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol (5 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater opened its production of Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol on December 9, 2011.
Move over Scrooge, its time for Jacob Marley to tell his story! Join Marley and his heroic behind-the-scenes effort to save old Scrooge's soul - and in the process save his own, in this delightful gem of a show. Chained and shackled, and condemned to a hellish eternity, Jacob Marley desperately attempts to free himself and escape his own chains, but first he must redeem Scrooge. Filled with laughter and terror, redemption and renewal, this wonderful play is irreverent, funny, and a deeply moving twist on Dickens' classic, told with warmth and infectious zest.
David Arisco directed Ken Clement in this one-man adaptation.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for Edge
Carbonell Award-winner Ken Clement tackles the one-man show, capably portraying Marley, as well as the narrator and 16 other roles, ranging from the Bogle, his miniature guide in the spirit, to Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.
Clement’s flamboyant manner leads the audience through the story as he deftly switches characters on a dime. His turns are staged on a minimalist set from Gene Seyffer, a series of rounded platforms sparsely decorated with a small desk and antique chair, and a trunk and screen that primarily serve as storage place for all sorts of clever props.
While the set provides an imaginative blank canvas for Director David Arisco, Patrick Tennent’s carefully considered lighting design and accompanying sound design from Alexander Herrin provide the magic, accentuating every nuance of Clement’s performance and setting the scenes at every turn. At many South Florida theaters, the technical categories are often a neglected afterthought at best, but here they are integral to the success of the production.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin'
One actor playing 18 roles—from Marley to Crachit—provides a potential acting tour de force that actor Ken Clement embraces wholeheartedly.

Clement deftly goes form character to character without ever seeming forced or contrived. Each is clear and separate. Though the story is a dark one, he manages to find what humor lies in the script. He also manages to avoid being too mushy or sentimental with the handling of story or overacting any of the characters. Surely, immense concentration is required to keep the pace going forward in a 90-minute show with no one to act off of but oneself.

The stage ...holds a caul of lanterns overhead, their lights flickering on and off during the show like distant stars. Sound is also used well to add slight effects to the voices of some of the characters, helping them to sound more ominous. Both provide just the right magical and mysterious light-handed touch to this evening of a visit with an often overlooked character, and his own touching story of salvation.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami
Gosh, we're lucky, those of us who go to the theatre in South Florida. And amongst the luckiest are those who catch Ken Clement in Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol at Actors' Playhouse.
Written by Tom Mula and directed by David Arisco, Marley has Clement playing a cast of thousands. Or so it seems. The pr says more than thirty, the program lists eighteen, and I lost count. Regardless, you'll sit there with gaping mouth and popping eyes as Clement disappears into the characters of Dickens' London.

It's a dark, simple set by Gene Seyffer; a three level platform with raised desk, stool and guttering candle, wooden chest, fabric draped armchair and dressing screen. And the ceiling is hung with dozens of small lanterns, used to great effect. Credit Patrick Tennent.
So thank you, Arisco, Seyffer, Tennent and sound man Alexander Herrin for this early Christmas present. And to Ken Clement, thanks for showing us all how to do this acting thing.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
I’ve been saying for years that if I were an artistic director that I’d design a season just to give work to certain performers and that near the top of the list would be Ken Clement.

This is not altruism; it’s completely selfish. I want to see more of what he’ll do. Clement is usually the best element in a mediocre production, but he soars in the stratospheric reaches of excellence when given the right role...
Both narrator and stand-in for the 17-member cast of characters, Clement is a master storyteller enthralling us around an invisible campfire with playwright Tom Mula’s 90-minute alternate take on Charles Dickens’ classic that many people have grown weary of.
It’s hard to know what is the greater achievement of Clement and director David Arisco — creating characters so distinct from each other than you are never confused who’s talking, or the instant switches among characters arguing among themselves.
...unquestionably, Clement’s skill at selling the tale makes this work. In other hands, some of the passages might sound cloying and saccharine. But Clement always finds the truth of each moment whether its silliness or sentimentality, employing an expressive face, eyes that always harbor a little pain even while seeming merry, and a chameleonic voice that ranges up and down the entire vocal scale.
...special credit goes to lighting designer Patrick Tennent who created a score of effects from a green-hued monster to the bowels of Hell through an ever-shifting array of lights. Instantly switching spotlights and accompanying sound cues must keep production stage manager Carl Waisanen from being able to rest more than a few seconds at a time.

This show indeed is satisfying for all ages, but it’s essential viewing for people who love theatrical storytelling.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol takes Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic and considers it from another perspective. Like Stephen King’s hefty new novel 11/22/63, Tom Mula’s one-man play takes something familiar... and comes at it from fresh directions. So while the work is resonant and easy to grasp, it’s never boring.
Much of the credit for that “never boring” assessment goes to actor Ken Clement, now on stage at Actors’ Playhouse as Scrooge’s 7-years-dead business partner and 17 other characters — 18, if you count his contribution as the show’s storytelling narrator.
Sculpting the show with director David Arisco, Clement achieves the variations in voice, physicality and attitude required to differentiate the many characters. He makes all the rapid-fire shifts necessary to create a conversation between two characters, and he’s so adept at it that you feel you’re watching grumpy Jacob Marley haranguing the mischievous demon Bogle, then seeing the old sourpuss getting as good as he gives.
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol is never going to ascend to the pantheon of beloved holiday fare, not the way Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has. As playwright Mula notes in the text (and as included samples from the original amply demonstrate), Dickens is simply a much better, more ingenious writer. But when an actor of Clement’s caliber turns his trained, mellifluous voice and considerable acting skill to all those characters, Jacob Marley becomes an impressive alternative to one more trip into Scrooge’s world.
Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol plays at Actors' Playhouse through January 1, 2012.

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