For a Christmas like none you’ll ever experience in Long Beach, head over to the Goad Theatre for A Child’s Christmas in Wales. The play is based on Welshman Dylan Thomas’ poem by the same name and adapted for the stage by director Helen Borgers.
In Borgers’s program notes, a line stands out: “The time is not really important, except that it was a time when people paid attention to what was happening around them.” In short, an era quite unlike the present. This is evident in the innocent antics of Young Dylan (Brady Bennett) and his friend Jim, ably played by Rachel Tully, who intuitively understands how a young boy might move: “borrowing” the prized tea tray of Aunt Hannah (Amy Paloma Welch) to slide down an icy hill, spooking each other with ghost stories and snowball fights in which no one is hurt.
The entire performance gave me the sense of stepping into someone’s dream, since it is a pastiche of memories that anyone would feel blessed to have as her own. The postman (Andy Kallok) is a jolly, old soul, reminiscent of Saint Nick, and Uncle Bert (Leonardo Lerma) is as indulgent as any good uncle was meant to be. These are idealized characters seen through the fog of the ensuing years– or more properly, through the snow that falls softly and gently throughout the play like a blanket wrapping about a sleeping child.
In the logic of dreams, Adult Dylan (Gerardo Macias) is both narrator and participant, dreamer and dream self. He sometimes stands apart, observing and commenting upon the actions of his youth, then exits his present, singing and doing the jig alongside his former self– or how he chooses to remember himself. Macias is riveting as a dancer and appropriately pensive as a narrator. He, like his fellow actors, is also a singer. In fact, if you cared nothing for this sensitive walk down Memory Lane, you would get more than your money’s worth with the music– everything from the ethereal “Carol of the Bells” and “All Through the Night” to Lerma’s dapper and playful moment in the sun with “Where Did You Get That Hat?”
Deeper into this reverie is a place of magic, set in the forest of the unconscious, where red women-birds, a man-bear and a man-wolf dance. Even on this mythical, mysterious level, Young Dylan and the inner child in us all feel safe. It is the continuous comforting presence of the snow that puts a hush to any stirrings of fear that might have arisen had it not been there as eternal as the ocean or the sky. Snow envelopes the dream and thereby creates a sense of intimacy and simultaneously universalizes the dream as well. We are all rather blurry about our youth, buried as it is in layer upon layer of white, fluffy suchness.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales continues at the Richard Goad Theatre through Sunday, Dec. 13. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased online at LBShakespeare.org or by calling (562) 997-1494. The Richard Goad Theatre is located at 4250 Atlantic Ave.