Providence Players of Fairfax and The Young Hearts present The Gift of the Magi, adapted by Jon Jory from the story by O. Henry. Beth Gilles-Whitehead directs an engaging cast in this charming production. Subtle and sweet, this story harkens back to a simpler time, and provides a welcoming haven from our current tumultuous climate.
Designer and constructor John White uses a projection screen to illustrate the play’s various early-1900s New York City settings, including a snow-covered park and the threadbare interior of a humble flat. While walking in the park, Jim (Alex Marshall) falls for a woman named Della (Jessica Singley), and the two marry after a thriving courtship. The couple are rich with love, but poor by all other standards. Both wish to gift the other something special for Christmas, and they each make great personal sacrifices in order to make it happen. In an ironic twist of fate, the couple discovers the true power and poignancy of the Christmas season. This is a story that celebrates true, unfaltering love, with a wise, grateful message and a warm heart.
On the surface it’s a simple story, and I wondered how the short and sweet tale that I knew could stretch into a full evening of theater. Jon Jory explores and sharpens these little-known characters, providing robust personalities where there were once only suggestions. I particularly loved how he took Della’s character and filled her with a confident, prideful wit. Though her quick temper and sharp tongue can come off as intimidating, her kindness and compassion show through her generous actions. Shy, introversive, and a bit bumbling, Jim is quite the opposite, but they complement each other nicely, and the pair prove to be a perfect match.
More characters are introduced as well, including Anand Tripathi as Digsby, a chatty, somewhat glib friend of Jim’s. Emily-Grace Rowson does a great job as Della’s sister Dot, a kind character full of encouragement and support. DS Rawlings and Mandi Ellis have effective turns as sympathetic shopkeepers, but Robey Manno steals the scene as Madame Vodaskaya, an eccentric tradeswoman full of wild stories. There are many funny, playful moments throughout the show, but her antics earn the most laughs from the audience. While it’s true that some performances could use some polishing, and there were some moments when the dialogue felt a bit forced, the overall performance as an ensemble was substantial, and the audience left with heavy doses of Christmas cheer!
The Gift of the Magi is a lovely way to honor and celebrate the true gifts of Christmas. See it with someone you love!
Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
This unique holiday treat will benefit the work of The Young Hearts Foundation, a group of amazing teens who raise funds to battle blood cancers and other diseases that affect children. Half of all net proceeds from this production will be donated to The Young Hearts Foundation in pursuit of their important mission. This year, The Young Hearts is raising money for Hope for Henry. Recognizing the uplifting effect laughter and smiles have for thousands of children, Hope for Henry works with children struggling with cancer and their families to fill their recovery time with fun and entertainment.
Clarice, Lindsey Morris; Ensemble, Thomas Udlock, Judi Deatherage, Gunner Moskowitz, Louisa Stanwich; Musician, Sarah Maurer