Every December for the past 25 years, Theatre in the Park executive and artistic director Ira David Wood III has given Triangle theatergoers two terrific Christmas presents, two great gifts from the heart, two priceless performances, belly-laughs and sweet tears of nostalgia. First, Wood hams its up hilariously as Ebenezer Scrooge in his own zany musical version of A Christmas Carol. Wood makes 19th-century English novelist Charles Dickens’ misanthropic old miser the King of Mean, until a ghostly visitation one cold and foggy Christmas Eve scares the malicious old skinflint straight, and transforms him into a veritable Father Christmas!

Wood follows that outrageously funny, way-over-the-top performance as Scrooge with a heart-tugging portrayal of 20th-century American novelist Truman Capote in a wistful and bittersweet one-man show in which the author of In Cold Blood reminisces about painful boyhood Christmases spent in a small rural Alabama town, away from his parents, gathering ingredients and making 32 fruitcakes, dampened with bootleg whiskey, and building and flying homemade kites with his elderly cousin, Sook Faulk, who had the mind of a child but a great spirit and a heart as big as all outdoors.

Last year was a difficult year for David Wood, who spent much of it suffering from a still undiagnosed illness that sapped his mental and physical energy. That suffering seems to have brought him even closer in spirit to young Truman, age 7-10, and 60-something Sook and her feisty rat terrier Queenie. As Wood reenacted the quaint and amusing 1930s events that comprise A Christmas Memory, he brought to life Truman and Sook and a string of colorful characters who shared their world, slipping effortlessly into the skin of each character. Wood also brought a figurative and literal lump to the audience’s collective throat while describing the unhappy chain of events that finally separated Truman and Sook once and for all.

A Christmas Memory is a four-hanky weeper, and there was hardly a dry handkerchief or Kleenex in the house by the time Wood finished his nostalgic ramble through the abandoned rooms where Truman Capote spent some of the happiest days of his childhood. Wood’s poignant performance his second (and, perhaps, greatest) gift to local audiences this Christmas season was aided and abetted by the sterling efforts of Christopher Johnson (lights) and Brian Santana (sound). They truly made A Christmas Memory a night to remember.

Theatre in the Park: http://theatreinthepark.com/a_christmas_memory/page_a_christmas_memory.html [inactive 3/04]. Ira David Wood III: http://theatreinthepark.com/frames/frame_ira_david_wood_iii.html [inactive 3/04]. Truman Capote: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/capote.htm and http://www.levity.com/corduroy/capote.htm [inactive 10/04]. Truman Capote: A Black and White Tribute: http://ansoniadesign.com/capote/index.htm. A Christmas Memory (Complete Text): http://computerlab.tripod.com/AChristmasMemory.doc [inactive 5/04]. [Note: REQUIRES CURRENT BROWSER. If this last url griefs, go to http://computerlab.tripod.com/capote.htm [inactive 10/04] and then click on “MS Word Document” to call up the text. This, too, requires a CURRENT BROWSER.]