O. Henry’s story of gift giving
focuses on a newly married couple in New York City in 1905. Jim Young
and his new wife Della live in a tenement and seem to have barely enough
income for food. With Christmas approaching, each of the newlyweds wants
desperately to give his/her spouse a gift that will embody the couple’s
O. Henry is known for stories with
surprise, ironic endings. To respect those who may not know this story,
I won’t say anything about the gifts. FreeFall writers Tana Colburn and
Deanne Eldridge, in adapting the piece for stage, have superimposed the
Scrooge story on O. Henry’s plot with a domineering grandfather in the
Scrooge part and an impoverished neighbor flower seller, the charming
Charlotte Stokhaug, in the Tiny Tim role.
The newlyweds are competently
performed by FreeFall newcomers Kelsey Lightfoot and Dave Sterkin.
Another new FreeFall performer, Ron Dailey, forcefully fills the Scrooge
role as the nasty grandfather who fires Jim from his department store
job because he has dared to fall in love with a beautiful clerk. Trish
Schmeltz is a strong presence as a pivotal milliner.
For me the actor who steals the show
is FreeFall veteran Stephen Watson, acting in his 10th
FreeFall production. A superb character actor, Watson plays two parts:
the minister who marries the couple and tries to talk the grandfather
into showing some compassion, and the shopkeeper who plays a key role in
the climactic act of the story. Watson makes each of these parts into a
small masterpiece, each with his own distinctive character and accent.
What could be a more suitable break
from holiday planning and shopping than a quick, uplifting bit of great
local theatre? For young or not-so-young, FreeFall Stage has just the
pickup your spirit needs.