Beasley's Christmas Party a sure-fire family favorite
 

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posted Friday, December 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 48

Beasley's Christmas Party a sure-fire family favorite
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Beasley's Christmas Party
Taproot Theatre
Through December 30


Taproot Theatre is presenting a timeless story that actually has never been staged before. Beasley's Christmas Party is a Booth Tarkington short story that was only recently (in 2008) translated into a theatrical script by C.W. Munger. Yet it feels like a classic holiday play, similar to It's a Wonderful Life.

The short story focuses on an unlikely person in our times: a politician almost everyone likes! David Beasley is a small-town politician who has enough stature to run for governor of his state. Yet, he's also another anomaly. He's a man of few words. So few words that he has no policy positions that anyone can really quibble with. He appears to be a confirmed bachelor who lives by himself.

Someone with a grudge against him - a local farmer with a nasty disposition - thinks he's found out some dirt that will take Beasley out of the race. He drags the local newsman to spy on Beasley, who is having what the farmer describes as a posh Christmas party. What they see is Beasley talking to people who aren't there, and suddenly he looks like he's lost his mind.

The whole story, however, is that Beasley has taken and adopted a severely handicapped child, the offspring of very close friends who died. The child has a huge imagination and has created bunches of imaginary friends. Beasley indulges the boy by treating his imaginary friends as real people, greeting them, shaking their imaginary hands, and even dancing with them. Far from causing a scandal, the news could only bolster his beloved image.

Directed by Scott Nolte, a small cast of four - Frank Lawler, Don Brady, Lisa Peretti, and Aaron Lamb - play all the roles. Lawler has a narrator-style role and remains the same person throughout, while the others fill in every other role. Quick costume changes, voices projected from behind the stage, and other stage tricks allow for these character switches, mostly with a minimum of fuss. Occasionally, the changes are a bit convoluted, creating a wish for maybe another body or two on stage, just to make it flow a little quicker. Nolte reports that C.W. Munger, though, did the play with only three cast members!

You may note that there is no child listed. In this production, the child is represented by a bunch of blankets in a small pull-wagon. While that suspension of disbelief can work for many, others may long for a real boy. Peretti supplies his voice from backstage when the little guy is supposed to speak.

The year is 1909 and the place is small-town Indiana. Set and sound designer Mark Lund does his usual magic, creating a simple yet sweet set for a Victorian home with a back parlor from which wonderful piano music emanates. Peretti and Lamb play real piano back there, enhancing the old-timey feeling, with Peretti's lovely voice on some favorite Christmas carols. Suitable costumes by Sarah Burch Gordon and lighting by Brian Engel contribute to the gentle atmosphere.

This is a 90-minute production with no intermission and is certainly an option for the entire family, with children best over about age 6, just for patience's sake. If you're looking for a new family favorite, this is sure-fire holiday fare.

For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call 206-781-9707.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.



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