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A CurtainUp Review
A Child's Christmas in Wales
One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six..— Dylan
Nicholas Barasch and Ashley Robinson (Photo by Carol Rosegg)
Charlotte Moore, artistic director and guiding spirit of the Irish Repertory Theatre, is to be congratulated on another fine production o A Child's Christmas in Wales. Having seen her concert adaptation of the classic in 2011, I went to this new mounting of Dylan Thomas' holiday classic, wondering if its charms would still enthrall me. Well, the answer is yes. Not only does it sparkle on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage, it is the perfect show for celebrating the company's 30th anniversary season.

This amusing anecdotal reminiscence that the author recorded in 1952 evolved from earlier prose works. In it, Thomas holds the magic lantern of his mind to the past and recounts his collective memories of Christmas as a lad in his home town of Swansea. Through the fluency and force of his lyrical language, we meet a gallery of his relatives and neighbors, young and old, who gathered at the family homestead at Christmas-time. Thomas brilliantly balanced the characters' eccentricities with the idyllic atmosphere of his native coasta town— capturing not only the local color but endowing his story with a vivid sense of place and time.

Although the emphasis is on the lighter-hearted moments, there are darker elements threaded throughout that anchor it to reality. Take Dylan's opening speech, in which he tries to fathom whether the "skating grocer vanished like a snowman through a white trap door on that same Christmas day that the mince pies FINISHED Uncle Arnold. . ." Yes, there's even memento mori sprinkled into this nostalgic yarn that brims with life but also whispers of mortality.

The acting is robust, humorous, and intentionally exaggerated for comic effect. While Nicholas Barasch has the meatiest part as Dylan, this is a true ensemble piece, with each cast member eventually stepping into the limelight to deliver a signature monologue or song. But, truth be told, the show gains more spice with Moore's theatrical trimmings: traditional carols (some sung in English; others in Welsh), original songs, contemporary poems, and Celtic step-dancing tossed in for good measure.

Hat's off to James Morgan for his twinkling Christmas set, abetted by Michael Gottlieb's lighting. It visually appropriates both the indoor and outdoor aspects of the extended reverie, and eliminates the need for any awkward scene-changes.

This is the Irish Rep's tenth production of A Child's Christmas in Wales during its three-decade history. As joyously helmed by Moore, this is a family-friendly show that can be enjoyed by anyone who savors a holiday with a bit of Celtic magic.

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A Child's Christmas in Wales
Written by Dylan Thomas
Adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore
Cast: Nicholas Barasch (Dylan Ensemble), Dewey Caddell (Father, Smoky, Ensemble), Margaret Dudasik (Mrs. Prothero, Violinist, Ensemble), Polly McKie (Aunty Hannah, Ensemble), Naomi Louisa O'Connell (Mother, Ensemble), Ashley Robinson (Tom, Jack, Ensemble).
Costumes: Barbara A. Bell
Musical Director, piano: John Bell
Lighting: Michael Gottlieb
Production Stage Manager: Pamela Brusoski
The Irish Repertory Theatre (Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage), at 132 West 22nd Street. Tickets: $50-&70. Phone 212/727-2737 or visit online:
From 11/28/18; opening 12/03/18; closing 12/30/18.
Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm; Thursdays at 7pm; Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday matinees at 3pm.
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 12/06/18.

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