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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 16, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 50
Owen Meany's Christmas an enjoyable night
Arts & Entertainment
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Owen Meany's Christmas an enjoyable night

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant
Book-It Repertory
Through December 23


Owen Meany is a character from a novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. The novel contains a long history of a friendship between two boys, Owen and John. A portion of the novel details a particular Christmas when they were 10 and 11, after a summer baseball game when Owen accidentally hit a foul ball that hit John's mother in the head and killed her. This portion was amplified by Book-It Repertory originally in 1997 and then performed, as Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant, every holiday season for a few years.

This year, Book-It has brought it back again. Connor Toms portrays John, with a bit of a split focus, narrating at first as an adult about a time in the past, and then becoming the 10-year-old and continuing the narration. This is an awkward finesse, though his narration smoothes out for the rest of the production. His character, John, has little personality, so Toms ends up primarily as the narrator.

Owen is a commanding character, despite being tiny and having some vocal issue that makes actor Josh Aaseng describe his voice as 'broken.' Aaseng plays Owen with a reasonable semblance of a squeaky voice, thankfully not so irritating that the audience hates to hear him talk. He is a small adult but doesn't really have the manner or delivery of a young boy. Owen is not very nice, so it's a difficult role to pull off.

All the children are played by adults, so you must accept this to suspend disbelief. The ensemble does a good job with childlike behaviors and jokiness.

Owen directs the actions of people around him by either yelling at them or manipulating them. He has an unexplained antipathy to Catholicism, bosses his parents around, and thinks there is something Godlike about himself. To that end, when he is called upon to play (yet again) the Herald Angel in the local Christmas pageant, he manipulates the situation so that he can play the Baby Jesus, instead.

In fact, he manipulates everything to be different from what it had been for the past couple of years. The minister Dudley Wiggin and his wife Barb, a former pilot and flight attendant (harkened back to with very funny effect by director Jane Jones), ineffectually attempt to recreate what has worked before. With adept manipulation by Owen, the kids accept all of his changes instead.

Owen's intelligence is such that he skewers Mrs. Wiggin's prior staging with ease. If their portrayal is based on the song, then why do they have turtledoves? Aren't they supposed to have lowing cows, instead? If Jesus has no crib for a bed, they why do they have a crib? Shouldn't he have hay?

Mrs. Wiggin is marginalized until she gets Owen completely swaddled and somehow decides to plant a huge kiss on his mouth. The reasoning for that is obscure. Perhaps it is her way of getting him back. In many ways, without the rest of the novel, much of the motivation is obscure.

The audience seemed to enjoy it and many are glad that Book-It has brought it back. There are a few very adult moments, though, so it can't be considered a children's production, even if it's about children. Though it's somewhat funny, Owen gets an erection, and there are other grown-up references.

The ensemble is solid and in addition, a few actors do great work. Richard Nguyen Sloniker as Johnny's stepdad, Ashley Marshall as Mary who gets to play Mother Mary, and Kathleen Stoll as Mrs. Wiggin stand out in particular. Allison Standley's lovely soprano is used for underscoring some scenes.

For more information, call 206-216-0833 or go to www.Book-It.org.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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BEST OF MUSIC 2011:
Albums and singles

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BEST OF MUSIC: Hottest artists of 2011
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BEST OF MUSIC 2011: LIVE PERFORMANCES by Albert Rodriguez and Jessica Price
SGN A&E Writers


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BEST OF MUSIC 2011:
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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BEST OF MUSIC: Worst of music 2011
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Lashes Christmas Show - R Place's holiday must-see
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Homo for the Holidays a one-of-a-kind holiday smash
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Hillary Clinton's most impressive speech on human/lgbt rights in Geneva ...most incredible


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The genius of Jason Robert Brown
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Scorsese's Hugo pure cinematic magic
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Muppets still make a rainbow connection
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Northwest News
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Letters
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Owen Meany's Christmas an enjoyable night
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A Dyke About Town: Cris Williamson glows
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Blu-ray enhances great Mahler
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Dramatic and poignant, Tori Amos stills the Paramount
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Wacky Wisemen skewers the holidays
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