An evocation of a simpler time and a lovely, warm way to spend a holiday evening.
By Joel Benjamin
Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales is the misty-eyed prose poem that evokes Christmas as he remembered it through the fog of time. He can’t remember, for example, whether it snowed for “six days and six nights when [he] was twelve or twelve days and twelve nights when he was six,” but the details of what they ate and who was there and with whom he “snow-balled” Mrs. Prothero’s evil cats, makes for a portrait of a lovely time which the Irish Repertory Theatre is generously sharing with us.
The Irish Repertory Theatre’s production combines Thomas’ image-laden, warmly funny words with beautifully sung Christmas Carols. The staging is delightfully simple: a few decorated Christmas trees, a small upright piano, a colorful rug and ornate chairs in a semi-circle. Thomas’ words are given life by a cast led by the legendary John Cullum, sitting center in a semi-circle of younger performers: Jacque Carnahan, Katie Fabel, Kenneth Quinney Francoeur and Ashley Robinson, with the genial Mark Hartman on the piano, often chiming in with the others.
As Thomas’ tale of presents (“many-colored jelly babies,” “a celluloid duck” with an awful quack, “a painting book,” games and more sweets galore), family (lots of uncles), friends (including, “a boy the spit of myself” who taunts him with a dog whistle) and many locals including a postman with a “rose on his button nose” unfolds, the mood is nostalgic without ever getting gooey. The little pranks Thomas and his friends played and the songs they sang round a fire complete a little portrait of his Welsh town.
As adapted and directed by the Irish Rep’s artistic director, Charlotte Moore, this production couldn’t be more agreeably comfortable with just enough “literature” for the adults and jolly carols for the kids.
All the performers sang and acted perfectly and were convincing as a troupe that not only liked entertaining, but liked each other as well.
The run of the Irish Rep’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales is short, so take advantage of this opportunity to see a minor holiday season classic.
*Photos: Carol Rosegg
A Child’s Christmas in Wales (through January 3, 2016)
Irish Repertory Theatre
103 East 15th Street, between Union Square East and Irving Place
New York, NY
For tickets call 212-727-2737 or visit www.IrishRep.org
Running time: 65 minutes, no intermission