When I think of Truman Capote, I mostly remember the celebrity gadfly who abandoned his writing to party and gossip on late night television about “the beautiful people.” New Repertory Theatre’s exquisite HOLIDAY MEMORIES (playing through Dec. 23rd) based on his writings, has restored the sensitive novelist to me. Russell Vandenbrouke’s lovely stage version of two glorious stories (one Thanksgiving and one Christmas) sets the memoirs in Capote’s own words, as if the author (played by Marc Carver) were reliving his childhood, with us magically at his side.
Carver makes us co-conspirators, watching the hapless characters trudge through Depression era Alabama, delightfully describing them, one by one, with playful abandon: The town bully’s embarrassment is conveyed with “his already red ears had become pimento” and his gangly appearance is topped with those same ears as “a pair of eye catchers.”
The lucid language whisks you to another time and the actors conjure places and people so perfectly, you wish you had known them. Maybe you did know a few of them, like Buddy’s eccentric cousin (more like an aunt to him since sixty years separated them) who managed to save the young boy from loneliness and mediocrity.
Adrianne Krstansky gives a truly inspired performance as Buddy’s miraculous Miss Sook, the sweet, odd lady who never travelled more than five miles from home but knew worlds about life and kindness. Michael John Ciszewski gives Buddy a childlike enthusiasm and openness and together, Sook and Buddy capture your heart. The talented Elizabeth Anne Rimar and Jesse Hinson portray everyone else, from highfalutin relatives to a disapproving teacher to that nasty, tortured bully. Director Michael Hammond’s production flies through the stories on wings, leaving us wanting to know so much more about these enchanted characters.
New Rep is exactly the right size for such an intimate piece of theater. We feel as if Carver, as the narrator, is speaking directly to us. Jon Savage’s polished wood set converts seamlessly into a piano or a small bed and his charcoal sketches (which come to life in the forest!) add a rustic, small town feel to the play. Edward Young’s soundscape, especially the carols, played on a dulcimer, made me picture an era gone by.