Bailey Story & Laurene Scalf. Photo: Bunbury
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By Truman Capote, Adapted for the stage by Russell Vandenbroucke
Directed by Russell Vandenbroucke
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All right reserved.
This time of year is well populated by holiday-themed theatre, dance, and music, which can be daunting for anyone who finds the ubiquity of Christmas off-putting. The classics thrive for good reason, but sometimes the most affecting seasonal offerings place the holiday itself slightly in the background.
Truman Capote’s autobiographical stories “The Thanksgiving Visitor” and “The Christmas memory” are not about Thanksgiving and Christmas as much as they are about the relationship between Truman as a boy called Buddy (Bailey Story) and a woman named Miss Sook (Laurene Scalf), a “special friend” who lives with the family. It is a touching and resolute bond that is tested in the moments surrounding the two family holidays, but which undoubtedly influences Truman’s whole life.
Set in small-town Alabama during the Great Depression, this is a forthright memory play, framed as a reminiscence from the adult Truman, played with understated feeling and a tinge of the rueful by Conrad Newman and reinforced by effective use of projections and silhouettes. Significant moments happen in those silhouettes, and the cast and Set and Lighting Designer Gerald Kean nicely manage them so that they are much more than design elements.
Bailey Story captures the balance of youthful impetuousness and emotional vulnerability of the boy labeled “sissy” by his father. But Miss Sook is able to take a fuller measure of his character, even though she cannot fully shield him from such misunderstanding, and Laurene Scalf subtly chronicles all of the aging woman’s insights and foibles.
Zach Stone is appropriately brutal and imposing as Odd Henderson, Buddy’s tormentor who is at the center of one of Miss Sook’s most challenging lessons in character building. Kristy Calman, Gracie Taylor, and Clay Chapman are fine utility players in various roles, and Tom Morton provided a piano accompaniment that was perfectly judged in tone and volume.
The staging is spare, with a small number of evocative furniture pieces, and there is an especially interesting straw baby buggy that is given attention that must have been a rare find; kudos to Hannah Greene.
These are mostly quiet stories told in a plaintive manner from within the nostalgic glow of memory. They never got lost in sentimentality but achieve an identifiable emotional resonance all the same. Holiday Memories doesn’t celebrate the holidays so much as recognize how such occasions tend to bring conflict and forgiveness into high relief, especially where the most cherished people in our lives are concerned.
December 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 @ 7:30pm
December 8, 15, & 22 @ 2:00pm
Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.