Before there was Ralphie, in “A Christmas Story,” and before there was Charlie Brown, there was Dylan Thomas. Adapted from his renowned poem of the same name, Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell’s play “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” as directed by Joseph Discher, is a treat for all ages. This year especially, when we are emerging from a brutal Summer and Autumn, this sepia-toned vintage treat is a balm for the tortured soul.
A quick scan of the playbill and you’ll see an all-star Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) cast. We who follow New Jersey theatre are like baseball fans–we have our favorite players. This cast is full of those I always love to see including Patrick Toon, fresh from this season’s Outdoor Stage; Andy Paterson; Tina Stafford; Seamus Mulcahy; and Alison Weller, whose end is her beginning, as she led off this season as Hilde in “A Song at Twilight”. These and other dazzlers are part of the ensemble that sparkles around the gem of Greg Jackson’s Dylan Thomas. You feel him as Thomas in a very real performance that gives ample room for magnificent range–from rosy-tinged remembrance to living in the moment of early teen thrills, like special red BSA bikes and visits from the most special of aunts.
The stage is set for a family who puts fun into any holiday: the child-dread of cousins tagging along; the adult-dread of the family member who’s always been a wet blanket:; the group-dread of the children from the other side of town—all combine in love, music and memories to spark new generations of theatre goers and this is a treat indeed for us all.
Jackson shines in his complete embracing of the 14-year old Dylan and the antic mayhem of a fire in the kitchen, the smoking turkey whose goose is thoroughly cooked, the visit from the toddling postman—such beautiful vignettes. Peter Simon Hilton, as Dylan’s father, speaks with prose that sings and we clearly understand where the young Welshman derives his love of words. Carey Van Driest as the beloved Aunt Elieri, who also sets the elder gentlemen’s hearts aflutter, is so unaffectedly gracious that the women love her too. The entire family pulls together in a way that 21st century families seem to have forgotten and such joys as finding trinkets, a tangerine and a net bag of chocolate gold coins in a stocking, may have the gems of tears sparkling in your eyes as well.
See this play today! It’s one for the ages. Even if your family holidays were never like this, it’s a gift for yourself as well as those you love. Get your tickets now at www.shakespearenj.org
. The run in Madison, NJ ends on January 1, 2017, so if you need a little Christmas, now is the time.