When Theatre in the Park founder and executive and artistic director Ira David Wood III takes the stage every year in his own zany musical version of A Christmas Carol at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, anything goes. When Wood dons a ratty wig and dusty 19th century duds and top hat and hams it up hilariously as that infamous old penny-pincher and legendary misanthrope Ebenezer Scrooge, there isn’t a bun in the Triangle big enough to hold him. For those Triangle theatergoers who have only seen David Wood’s over-the-top performance as Scrooge, his stirring portrayal of the nostalgic young Truman Capote, revisiting the site of some of his happiest childhood days in A Christmas Memory, is a revelation.

Wood’s scene-stealing Scrooge and cohorts have Christmas Carol audiences screaming with laughter and rolling in the aisles; his one-man show as Capote leaves Christmas Memory ticket-buyers sniffling softly and reaching for their handkerchiefs. Last Saturday’s matinee performance was no exception. Wood’s reading of Capote’s bittersweet reminisces of boyhood Christmases with his elderly simple-minded cousin and best friend Miss Sook Faulk was riveting. As gifted in drama as he is in comedy, Wood made each Christmas Memory character come fully and gloriously to life, even Queenie, the fearless little orange-and-white rat terrier who accompanied seven-year-old Truman and sixty-something Sook on their adventures, gathering ingredients for 30 moonshine-soaked fruitcakes, finding and chopping down their own Christmas tree, making home-made Christmas presents for each other, etc. Their confrontation with a fearsome Native American moonshiner named Mr. Ha-Ha Jones—while attempting to purchase the fruitcakes’ secret ingredient—was, as always, a comic gem.

The best thing that can be said about TIP’s annual presentation of A Christmas Memory is that David Wood keeps the show fresh and funny—and piercingly poignant when it needs to be. His colorful characterization of budding novelist and raconteur Truman Capote is a crowd-pleasing performance that has inspired 28 encore productions. The worst thing that can be said about A Christmas Memory is that there are only four performances each year, and last year and this year two of those performances were completely sold out before the show’s run even began. So, next year, Triangle theatergoers are advised buy their tickets as soon as they go on sale, or risk missing one of the finest performances of this or any other theater season.

Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/. A Christmas Memory: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/2006-07_productions/christmas_memory/memory.htm [inactive 11/09]. Truman Capote (PBS’ “American Masters” Series): http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/capote_t.html. Complete Text: http://www.geocities.com/cyber_explorer99/capotechristmas.html [inactive 2/07].