The short story “The Gifts of the Magi” by O. Henry is a Christmas classic about two newlyweds, Jim and Della, who are living in New York City in 1905. They struggle to get by with Jim out of work and there simply isn’t enough money for Christmas gifts. So they each sacrifice the possessions they love the most to give each other a Christmas gift.
Jessica Skerrit as Della
In ArtsWest’s The Gifts of the Magi, another O. Henry story entitled “The Cop and the Anthem” is mixed in with this timeless Christmas tale. “The Cop and the Anthem” is about a cheerful bum named Soapy Smith who tries desperately to get arrested for Christmas, so he can spend the winter in a nice warm jail cell.
The Gifts of the Magi is adapted by Mark St. Germain. In my view, the adaptation does not do justice to the original O. Henry story. Perhaps that is because the original story is so short that St. Germain felt he had to lengthen it, and that’s where the play lost me. The play includes a lot of songs, some of which don’t have much to do with the story. Plus the songs are so full of unnecessary words that I couldn’t always understand what they were singing.
The play is directed by Brandon Ivie. I liked his directing. It is very minimalist and Ivie lets the audience use their imagination to fill in the minimalist gaps.
The play is full of talented actors. Take, for example, Jessica Skerritt, who plays Della. She has a very nice voice and I didn’t have any problems hearing her. I also think she does a good job acting the part of a young woman in love and also having to deal with the problems of living without enough money.
John W. Bartley plays opposite Skerritt as Jim. Bartley’s performance is good but inconsistent. He breaks character when he is playing the love scenes; I could see the actor, not the character, playing on stage. His performance is better when he does his solo “How Much to Buy My Dream”.
Also, I really enjoyed the performance by Trish LaGrua as City Her.
All in all, I think the acting is good, the directing is good, but the show could be improved but cutting out and/or shortening a few songs. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the acting I saw at ArtsWest. I really liked their staff and their theatre. The staff is positive and helpful and the theatre is interesting because it’s so small; there are only 149 seats. That makes for a really fun theatre experience!
December 5th, 2007
The Gifts of the Magi
Through December 23rd
ArtsWest’s Ticket Office: 206-938-0339
More info and show times: http://www.artswest.org/
ArtsWest is located at 4711 California Ave SW in West Seattle. It's served by buses 22, 37, 51, 53, 54, 55, 57, 128, and 560. tripplanner.metrokc.gov
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