Capote’s ‘A Christmas Memory,’ then and now
It’s not so much trying to compare apples with oranges as it is trying to compare fruitcakes baked with different ingredients.
“A Christmas Memory” is comprised of Truman Capote’s childhood recollections of family, friendship and fruitcakes.
First published as a short story in 1956, the largely autobiographical tale set in rural Alabama in 1933 follows 7-year-old Buddy – a thinly veiled stand-in for Capote – and his distant cousin Sook as they prepare for the annual holiday rituals.
Wide-eyed Buddy and his childlike cousin Sook live in a house with very poor relatives trying to survive the Great Depression.
When the eccentric Sook proclaims “Oh my. It’s fruitcake season,” Christmas baking is underway with Sook’s whiskey-laden fruitcakes hand-delivered or mailed to friends and family and sometimes even to strangers – like President Franklin Roosevelt.
The evocative narrative focusing on country life in the Deep South, and these soul mates’ joy in giving is. quietly funny and often poignant when touching on loneliness and loss.
As an alternative to its productions of “A Christmas Carol,” the professional Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble presented “A Christmas Memory” as its holiday attraction in 2011.
The production featured ensemble members Laurie McCants as Sook and Daniel Roth as the adult Buddy. (In somewhat unique staging, the script calls for both the adult and young Buddy to appear on stage at the same time.)
After the infamous fruitcakes are delivered, Buddy and Sook eagerly await Christmas. Although little is found under the Christmas tree, the kindred spirits still celebrate, heading off to a hidden meadow to experience the joy of flying their kites.
BTE’s Gerard Stropnicky directed the small cast in a very entertaining fast-paced production that was filled with love, vivid characters and “entirely American grace.”
Although best known for his violence-prone novels, most notably “In Cold Blood,” Capote’s short story “A Christmas Memory,” first published almost 60 years ago, fondly captures his innocence in an gentle, appealing way.
Although I was not surprised to see “A Christmas Memory” listed as one of the Open Stage of Harrisburg’s 2013 -14 attractions, I was surprised to see after the title a designation “A New Musical.”
Stuart Landon, Open Stage’s Marketing Director, confirmed that its production is part prose and part song with 15 original songs, including one ditty “Alabama Fruitcake.”
Premiering in the Northeast, “A Christmas Memory” musical has 8 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday with 2 p.m. matinees now through Dec. 29.
Open Stage’s Angino Family Theatre is located at 223 Walnut St. on the floor level of the Walnut Street Garage in downtown Harrisburg.
The genial Landon, who has many friends in the area since his acting stints at Mill Hall’s Millbrook Playhouse and Boiling Springs’ Allenberry Playhouse, plays the adult Buddy. “Life was always full of wonder for Miss Snook,” he said. “She opens a little boy’s eyes to the world around him.”
If “A Christmas Memory” is about family, Open Stage’s version proves to be a family affair. Don Alsedek, founder and artistic director for Open Stage, is the show’s director with wife Ann Alsedek playing Sook, the eccentric cousin who is utterly devoted to Buddy. And the Alsedek’s pooch is cast as Buddy’s beloved family dog Queenie.
This musical adaptation includes other colorful characters not found in the play, including a young girl whom Buddy alternatively loathes and loves. Her character is based upon novelist Harper Lee, (“To Kill A Mockingbird”) a real -life neighbor of Capote.
Landon emphasizes that the show, with a running time of two and a half hours with one intermission, is family friendly.
“A Christmas Memory” is unique as it is supposedly Truman Capote’s attempt to recreate the only time in his life that this acclaimed American writer was genuinely happy.
For reservations, call 717-232-6736 or visit www.openstagehbg.com.