BWW Reviews: A CHRISTMAS MEMORY Can Use a Few More Memories
Bookwriter Duane Poole expands a good deal on the source's tale of a young Alabama boy growing up under the parentage of three adult cousins, making full-blown characters out of people only mentioned in passing, but though there's some lovely work by the cast and fine musical moments supplied by Larry Grossman (music) and Carol Hall (lyrics), A Christmas Memory can use a few more memories to fill out its two acts.
Ashley Robinson plays the Capote stand-in, Buddy, a successful writer visiting the family home for the last time before selling it. Greeting him outside the door is the motherly live-in housekeeper, Anna (Virginia Ann Woodruff).
When Buddy's 7-year-old self takes the stage (Silvano Spagnuolo), the older gent recalls his last Christmas with his best friend and major adult influence, Cousin Sook (Alice Ripley). Though they lived hand to mouth, Sook always managed to save enough for the ingredient to bake dozens of fruit cakes every year for friends and passing acquaintances. This includes shipping one off to Washington for President Roosevelt.
The effervescent Ripley is charming as the somewhat off-kilter Sook and she and Spagnuolo share a delightful rapport, highlighted by the obligatory song where they go over the details of making the fruitcakes. But when Sook and Buddy are caught toasting with some leftover whiskey (one of the recipe's important ingredients), cousins Jennie (Nancy Hess) and Seabon (Samuel Cohen) decide the boy needs a more disciplined upbringing in military school.
Director Charlotte Moore's production has many fun and touching moments, particularly when exploring the tentative friendship between young Buddy and his rough and tumble neighbor, Nelle (Taylor Richardson), but A Christmas Memory might fare better as a 60-75 minute one-act. Just not enough fruit and nuts to fill up the cake.