"Marley was dead." Most people know that, even if they never read past the first sentence of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
But that and one chain-clanking scene are about all anyone knows about Ebenezer Scrooge's fellow miser, Jacob Marley. Carly Preston found that out when she did research for Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, which she is directing for Studio Players.
"I was really disappointed there really wasn't anything about him," Preston says.
Nothing, that is, except Tom Mula's play, which was inspired by Mula playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol productions and realizing that Marley really gets the raw end of the story. He returns from beyond the grave to warn Scrooge to change his ways, but as far as we know, Marley spends eternity in chains.
Mula's play supposes a motivation for Marley's visit: his own ticket out of hell.
"I love it," says Bill Nichols, who plays Marley in Studio Players' production. "It's a whole different take on an old classic, but you think, it could have happened."
Preston's production also puts a new spin on Christmas theater. There are no Dickensian street scenes, pine or red ribbons. The minimalist show is black outfits on a gray-and-black stage.
"I always wanted to do a Christmas show, but I don't like kitchen-sink realism," says Preston, who chose the play and pitched it to Studio. The look is different, Preston says, but Marley has the same heart and many of the same themes of A Christmas Carol and other holiday fare, including "Everyone deserves a second chance at Christmas."
Even if he's dead.