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A CurtainUp Review
Beasley's Christmas Party
Beasley's Christmas Party is narrated by a journalist, named Booth (Tony Ward), who no doubt represents the author. It tells about what happens when Booth becomes the neighbor of a taciturn Midwestern gubernatorial candidate, named Beasley (Joseph Collins) who was once jilted by the attractive girl-next-door. Miss Apperthwaite (Christa Scott-Reed) had decided at the time that Beasley lacked the imagination she desired in a mate.
Booth soon observes that there are strange goings-on in the Beasley residence. After meeting several acquaintances of both Apperthwaite and Beasley (all played by the amazing Collins and Scott-Reed) and visiting the Beasely household, the mystery is solved.
Beasley has become the guardian of a sickly young boy, the orphaned child of a college friend. Together Beasely and young Hamilton (played with great sensitivity by Scott-Reed) have created a troupe of imaginary friends to fill the lonely boy's life with pleasure. But Beasley is not without enemies. Corrupt politicians want to bring him down, and Beasley is only saved by his own goodness. In the remarkable penultimate scene, the entire imaginary cast (all portrayed by the astonishing Collins) attend Beasley's Christmas party and dance an enthusiastic quadrille, after which Beasley makes the only speech of his life — a dissertation on the meaning of Christmas.
The play suffers from far too much narration. In a misguided fidelity to Tarkington's story, Munger tells the audience more than it really needs to enjoy and understand the okat. However, once the talented cast gets its hands on the script, the play takes off, only occasionally stymied by the narrator's reappearance. Using excellent miming skills and the transformative power of their faces, Scott-Reed and Collins give each of their characters a distinct personality. Even the invisible characters come to life through the mock serious dialogue.
Beowulf Boritt's set of four towers of trunks, suitcases and the kind of bric-a-brac one finds in musty attics is perfect for this sentimental comedy, as is Josh Bradford's subdued lighting.
It remains to be seen whether or not this newcomer to the field of Christmas shows will eventually enter the cannon remains to be seen. But it certainly adds a new touch of warmth and cheer to the Christmas season in these difficult times.