BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS MEMORY at The Mastrogeorge Theatre, Austin Texas
Based on the beloved 1956 classic by the same title, The Alchemy Theatre's production of A Christmas Memory (at the Mastrogeorge Theatre) is a lovely adaptation of what is in my opinion, Truman Capote's finest masterpiece. Although Capote published far fewer books than his contemporaries, his body of work is extraordinary with accolades for works the caliber of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood, Capote always insisted that this short story was his personal favorite. A tribute to his distant cousin, Nanny Rumbley Faulk, nicknamed "Sook", A Christmas Memory tells us the story of "Buddy" (Capote's nickname) and his last Christmas with cousin Sook and their beloved dog, Queenie. Capote's shattered childhood had a profound effect on him; He suffered from multiple neuroses (including separation anxiety), fueled by alcohol and drug addiction. Capote was so terrified of abandonment that he reportedly refused to travel without his most treasured possession, a baby blanket handmade by Sook. When he died at the Bel Air home of Joanne Carson one month shy of his sixtieth birthdate, (per Carson), he held the blanket and uttered his final words, "It's me, it's Buddy... I'm cold".
Producer Christopher Shea's adaptation (under Michael Cooper's marvelous direction) perfectly captures the language of the original story. I did not expect to actually hear Capote's voice, lovingly recreated by Luke Hill, and the effect is dazzling, just spot-on. Hill does not mimic Capote's distinctive voice (which could easily stray into caricature), so much as he captures the essence of the voice, an homage if you will. The voice along with Hill's narration provide a nice counterpoint for interaction with young Buddy. Zac Meisenhelter is an adorable Buddy, his eyes lovingly follow Sook and Queenie's every move throughout their adventures with just the right touch of hero worship, wonder and breathless anticipation.
Carol Hickey is a delightful Cousin Sook who finds magic amid God's endless bounty in every moment, element, and gift that life delivers. For Sook, meaning is everywhere one looks, life is to be savored and celebrated and she shares her infectious worldview with Buddy. Hickey's merry eyes dance along with the marvels life reveals and the effect is charming, enchanting. Would Capote have become the literary giant he was without her influence? We'll never know of course, but we do know that of all of his many loves, no one else made him feel as loved and secure as did Sook.
Although not billed as a children's play, A Christmas Memory is certainly suitable for all ages. There were quite a few very well-behaved children at the Sunday matinee I attended and they were simply enthralled with the performance. I include this information along with the caveat I stress in all my reviews for holiday shows: They. All. Sell. Out. Fast. I repeat, tickets for holiday shows sell out almost before they are advertised, and A Christmas Memory is no exception. Tickets will be gone in a flash. Book your seats for this timeless classic while you can by visiting: https://ctxlivetheatre.com/venues/mastrogeorge-theatre/productions/ or call (512) 517-6772.