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Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather again at Theatre in the Park, where Ira David Wood III fervently reprises his critically acclaimed performance as wistful middle-aged Truman Capote and his precocious seven-year-old alter ego in A Christmas Memory. He demonstrates great panache and extraordinary depth of feeling in these dual roles.
TIP’s executive director brilliantly dramatizes a hilarious and heartbreaking early chapter of future novelist Truman Capote’s life in this sweetly sentimental, royally entertaining, and ultimately cathartic one-man show that he created based on Capote’s intensely autobiographical short story about his youthful friendship with Miss Sook Faulk, a sixty-something elderly cousin with the mind of a child and a special talent for making fruitcakes as Christmas gifts for family and friends and even President and Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
At the sold-out Friday-night performance, Wood mesmerized the audience with rib-tickling tales of the merry misadventures of young Truman, his cousin Sook, and her tough little rat terrier Queenie as they scurried hither and thither and yon to assemble all the choice ingredients — including pecans and walnuts, flower, citron, and a jar of moonshine from the fearsome bootlegger Mr. Ha Ha Jones — to make 30 delicious whiskey-soaked fruitcakes. Wood also waxed nostalgic about the homemade kites that they flew, the three-legged chicken who was the star attraction of freak show they put on to raise money to buy the ingredients for the fruitcakes, lazy picnics held at a nearby creek in warmer weather, and the beautiful Christmas tree that they discovered, chopped down, and brought home that final November and December that they spent together.
Wood hammed it up hilariously Dec. 6-14 as Scrooge in the Raleigh, NC-based community theater’s 31st annual production of its musical-comedy version of A Christmas Carol at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. This weekend, to perform A Christmas Memory for the 27th time, Wood doffs his stringy gray wig, hawk nose, and fancy Victorian duds and dons a simple tan overcoat, light sweater, and dark slacks. He gives a virtuoso performance as he summons up — and gives hilarious character voices to — the spirits of the dead author and his long-dead best childhood friend Sook Faulk, Mr. Ha Ha Jones, and assorted cantankerous, sternly disapproving elderly relatives.
Even with the nifty new soundscape that adds a note of authenticity to the proceedings, this powerful production of A Christmas Memory is as simple as the preceding production of A Christmas Carol is elaborate. But actor/director David Wood pulls out all the emotional stops as he performs this wonderful one-man show on a simple rustic leaf-strewn set, with technical assistance from Chris Johnson (lights), Brian Santana (sound), and TIP technical director Stephen J. Larson.
If you think that his side-splitting shenanigans as Ebenezer Scrooge is David Wood at the peak of his acting powers, by all means go see A Christmas Memory — and another side of Wood. But be forewarned: The Sunday matinee is already SOLD OUT, and only about 30 tickets remain for the Saturday matinee and evening performances of this remarkable change-of-pace production, which opened just two days after A Christmas Carol closed and arguably shows David Wood at his finest.
Theatre in the Park presents A Christmas Memory Saturday, Dec. 17, at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 3 p.m. in The Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $12 ($10 TIP season members). 919/831-6058. Note: The Sunday matinee is SOLD OUT. Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/. Truman Capote (PBS “American Masters” Series): http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/capote_t.html [inactive 1/06]. Complete Text: http://www.geocities.com/cyber_explorer99/capotechristmas.html [inactive 2/07].