Ask male actors their opinion of the "plum" (pudding?) roles in the stage adaption of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," especially when it comes to playing someone mean and misunderstood, and their answer is likely to be: If they can't play Ebenezer Scrooge, then playing his equally greedy partner, Jacob Marley, comes in as close second choice.
Over the decades, some pretty famous faces have stepped into this character, who is the first of a ghostly trio to visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve and foretells of the other two spirits who will arrive. His trademark costume includes rattling chains attached to financial ledgers and metal cash boxes, all clanking, noisy symbols of the greed and misguided priorities that unknowingly held him prisoner (of his own soul) during his life on earth.
Everyone from actor Jamie Farr of "M*A*S*H" fame, who put on the chains opposite Bill Murray in "Scrooged" in 1988, to Disney's floppy-eared Goofy as the ghostly apparition in "Mickey's Christmas Carol" in 1983, has taken his turn.
Professor/playwright/author Tom Mula decided it was time Marley's side of the story was told to readers and audiences. In 1995, Adams Media published his slim but delightful novella, "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol," which was adapted as an award-winning play version that has had hundreds of productions worldwide.
This month, Mula's stage tale is presented by Hammond Community Theater at Beatniks On Conkey, 418 Conkey St., in Hammond, with performances at 2 p.m. today (Sunday) and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, and one final performance 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15.
My editor, Crista Zivanovic, is a fan of Mula and his work
"I own two signed copies of this book. It's fantastic!" she said.
"It reads just like Dickens, but gives Marley's side of the story. Tom Mula starred for seven years as Scrooge in 'Christmas Carol' at the Goodman in Chicago, and he's been active in Oak Park's Shakespeare Theater, which is how I came to know of him and his book. He said in writing it, he always felt bad that only Scrooge got a chance at redemption and NOT poor Marley. It's simply marvelous. I used to read a chapter a night to my kids in December, and then, they read it themselves when they got older."
Tickets are $15 and refreshments are provided. Doors open a half hour before curtain. Cash admission only at the door for ticket sales
Go to brownpapertickets.com/event/358949 to buy advance tickets or call (888) 928-6648 or visit hammondcommunitytheatre.org
As for Mula, these days he spends most of his summers acting and directing at Peninsula Players in Door County, Wis., and teaches in the theater department at Columbia College Chicago. FYI: tommula.com.