The title character in “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” was dead, but that didn’t keep him from turning in a lively preview performance Thursday for Oklahoma City Theatre Company.
The play by Tom Mula, based on the story by Charles Dickens, was performed on a nearly bare set, with minimal props, in the intimate, underground City Space Theatre at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
This lack of props and a conventional set helped the four cast members emphasize the wonderfully theatrical elements of Mula’s offbeat, “storytelling theatre” approach to the Christmas classic.
Tall and commanding, Don Taylor was terrifying but tentative — and humorously, too easily discouraged in early scenes — as Marley’s ghost, trying to win his own freedom as he learns to haunt Scrooge.
After intermission, Taylor’s Marley was memorable as a “ragamuffin lad,” taking his ex-partner on a giddy, Peter Pan-like flight back to his own, more disturbing “Christmas past,” rather than Scrooge’s.
Clad in a long green coat, Taylor also succeeded in embodying Christmas Present’s need to bless everybody he hadn’t noticed before, including Scrooge, as he becomes “engulfed in the spirit of Christmas.”
Nearly as delightful as Taylor’s was the sprightly and engaging, yet nuanced and understated performance turned in by Carly Conklin.
Cast as Marley’s “bogle” (Scottish for specter), Conklin seemed to both lightly mock and become increasingly sympathetic to her charge’s often inept efforts to learn the ghostly ropes.
Scott Hale made the most of his supporting role as Scrooge, bringing the right miserly intensity, giving away to growing uncertainty and concern for his redemption and the welfare of others, to the part.
Jeni White brought a nice Kafka-esque dimension to the overly officious and punctilious but ultimately goodhearted and well-intended Record Keeper.
Winning us with its poetic and at times almost Hieronymus Bosch-like flights of poetic storytelling fancy, as well as its performances, the production, directed by Doug Van Liew, is highly recommended.
It will be repeated at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 20-23, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees Dec. 16 and Dec. 23. Tickets are $20 for adults. Call 297-2264 or 812-7737 or visit the website at www.okctc.org for information.