By Barry Reszel
In this season of societal encouragement to reflect on warm memories before bravely marching into a new year, Theatre at the Center’s musical production of Truman Capote‘s semi-autobiographical, A Christmas Memory, offers an endearing channel to bring about such yuletide introspection.
This is an elegant, old-fashioned, understated story of a 1953 adult looking back on his youth, 20 years prior. Set in rural Alabama, the show chronicles young Buddy Faulk being raised by three eccentric cousins in his last Christmas before being sent to military school.
More specifically, it focuses on familial love in simpler times as Buddy and his best friend, the kindly hick, Aunt Sook, share their annual tradition of gathering ingredients for their “World Famous Christmas Fruitcake,” to be sent to all their friends in low places (along with one to the White House).
Based on Capote’s well-known short story, Duane Poole‘s book, with music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Carol Hall, offers patrons a seasonal escape to a place time forgot. A lovely website dedicated to the musical offers full information about the show’s history and plot line. Simply click here.
With a largely unmemorable songbook serving to move the story along rather that offer much of a vocal showcase, it’s the acting chops of this Theatre at the Center cast that offers the production’s greatest highlight.
Paula Scrofano is simply brilliant as the tender Sook, and her co-star, Luke Michael Klein, makes a triumphant professional debut as Young Buddy. Indeed, it’s often on his thin shoulders that the requisite dramatic pacing rests. This young triple-threat’s terrific performance shows the tremendous trust placed in him by Director William Pullinsi is well-earned.
Klein’s adult counterpart, the 1953 Buddy narrating the tale while peeking back on his childhood, is lovingly portrayed by Geoff Rice. He combines the right touches of melancholy and wistful recollection that makes his return trip to his roots fully authentic.
The small, supporting, professional ensemble includes Robin K. DaSilva, Iris Lieberman, John Reeger, Madison Hertel and Emaline Green. Reeger shows his great versatility in three distinct roles while Hertel is another young actor illustrating immense capability. All offer terrific characterizations.
Scenic Designer Angela Weber Miller deserves special mention for an intriguing rotating set that illustrates the Alabama farmhouse and surrounding area in several interesting vantage points.
Overall, the gift of this production is that it opens minds and is likely to spawn conversations about patrons’ own recollections of Christmases and significant days past.
And for many, that’s what this time of year is all about.
Performances for “A Christmas Memory” at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; and some Thursday and Saturday matinees, through Dec. 14. Tickets range from $40 to $44 with discounts available for groups of 11 or more. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 219-836-3255. Additional information is available at www.theatreatthecenter.com.