Based on the book by Truman Capote
Adapter & Directed by Timothy Gregory
At Provision Theatre, Chicago
Heartwarming and nostalgic look at a child’s memory the two special days of the year
Kudos to Provision Theater and Tim Gregory for remounting their original holiday show that first played at the tiny upstairs theatre in 2008 at the Royal George Theater. This 100 minute holiday memory play tugs at the heart. Based on the childhood memories of Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor” are two one-acts featuring seven-year-old Buddy (Capote’s childhood nickname), played by Max Gannet, and his friend Miss Sook, played by Nancy Baird. In the 2008 production the fabulous Peggy Roeder stole the show in 2008 while in the current production Max Gannet is the dominant player.
It is 1931 in Monoreville, Alabama when seven-year-old Buddy is dropped of by his mother to his eccentric extended family. Buddy’s first friend quickly becomes his best friend. He develops a life altering unforgettable relationship with the 60something cousin, Miss Sook. She is a spinster recluse woman who never left the county, never ate in a restaurant and never married. Her world is the small house, cooking and being friends with Buddy. She is kind to everyone as she sees the best in everyone. She is thankful to the Lord and beholding to the wonders of nature. She nurtures Buddy as she teaches him by example what it is to be kind, gentle and human.
Truman Capote’s two stories are slices of life memories of a boy’s impressions of holiday adventures growing up in rural Alabama. Life was simple as the two friends enjoyed the wonders of life that included baking, walking the dog and cleaning the house. In “The Thanksgiving Visitor,” Buddy is being bullied by twelve-year-old Odd (Colin Wasmund) at school. Buddy grows to fear Odd but Miss Sook reassures him that Odd is really a nice boy. Sook invites Odd to the family feast on Thanksgiving Day. The family invites friends, travelers and lost souls to enjoy a fine holiday meal at their home. Events at the feast teach life lessons to Buddy.
In “A Christmas Memory,” we see Sook and Buddy organizing their baking of fruit cakes that Sook sends to all her loved one including President Roosevelt and the couple who’s care broke down in town last year. They must bake 30 fruit cakes and the main (and secret) ingredient is whiskey. Since Alabama is a dry state, they must venture to Haha Jones’ still to purchase illicit whiskey. The two friends have fun adventures including hunting for the perfect Christmas tree.
These wonderful stories are filled with loads of heart and down home warmth. Max Gannet is terrific as Buddy. He has the look and body language of a seven-year-old despite being an adult. It is difficult to play that young but Gannet prances about like a little boy. He exudes charm and simple humor. He is delightful. Nancy Baird is wholly lovable as Miss Sook. Baird hasthe right blend of senior wisdom, simple lifestyle and genuine loving spirit to make Miss Sook a most memorable character. Capote referred to Miss Sook as “an irreplaceable part of myself.” Nancy Baird delivers as the saintly yet simple woman.
Take your family to see this sweet holiday show that celebrate the human spirit as it defines the true values of the winter holiday season. It is so refreshing to see a remount of a holiday show that warmed the hearts of all who saw it in 2008. You might end up with one of Sook’s fruit cakes.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: November 30, 2013
For more info checkout the A Christmas Memory page at theatreinchicago.com
At Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL, call 312-455-0066, www.provisiontheater.org, tickets $10 – $32, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 100 minutes with intermission, through December 29, 2013