Saturday, December 5, 2009

Red Door "Holiday Memories"

What a shame that there were only three performances of Truman Capote's "Holiday Memories" at the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs. Director Fiona Macleod is celebrating her first anniversary at the Red Door with this production -- a fine one that sensitively brings Capote's characters to life in a stage version by Russell Vandenbroucke.

Largely narrative, this stage version replicates Capote's stories pretty much as they first appeared in print, challenging the actors to bring the characters realistically to life. The stories set at Thanksgiving and Christmastime are reminiscences -- the "memories" of the title -- of Capote's devotion to his cousin Miss Sook Faulk in Depression Era rural Alabama when he was seven and she was sixty-something.

As the older Truman [the main narrator], veteran actor Stephen Dubberley shares much of the storytelling with the younger version of himself called Buddy and played by Thomas Dyer. Together, they control most of the action and demonstrate a fine rapport in connecting the older man with his younger self.

Miss Sook is personified by Eleanor Davis, one of Montgomery's most accomplished actresses, in an evanescent portrayal of the childlike woman who teaches Buddy his most important lessons: that simple things are often the best, that trust and friendship outweigh material possessions, that deliberate cruelty is the only unpardonable sin, and that life & truly living it are precious gifts available to everyone.

Into their lives come a succession of relatives, neighbors, school-mates, an Indian "moonshine" dealer, and assorted eccentrics that exist mostly as tangenital outsiders to their almost enchanted lives wherein they tell stories, invent games, and engage in numerous "projects" that are reminiscent of simpler, quieter times.

All these characters are played by Summer Pickett Rice and Mark Moore, and are defined so individually that one might think there were more than five actors in the production.

Capote's prose evokes a previous time and gets into the very souls of his characters so accurately, and with a sensitive touch that Ms. Macleod interprets in an elegaic style through mood-setting music, an almost mystical set consisting of platforms and hanging muslin drapes bedecked with Spanish moss, and period-looking costumes. The deliberately slow pace and gentle vocal qualities of the actors complete this tribute to Capote's text.