Christmas as We Grow Older
City Lit Theater Company. Adapted and directed by Terry McCabe. With Kingsley Day, Melanie Esplin, Darrelyn Marx, Thomas M. Shea.
What would a City Lit holiday show look like? The company that’s known for its literary and historical high-mindedness often seems not unlike a vintage issue of The New Yorker adapted for the stage. City Lit devotees won’t be surprised, then, that McCabe has put together writings by Stevenson, Twain, Wodehouse and Ferber for his Christmas revue, and it goes almost without saying that O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” is here. The show’s title is taken from a Dickens piece, and the obscure music McCabe has unearthed includes a 17th-century English carol, an early Irving Berlin piece and an 1883 comic Irish ditty. This is certainly no Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
At its best, Christmas as We Grow Older lives up to its title: It’s a decidedly grown-up, often melancholy reflection on the holidays. McCabe’s major misstep in his compilation is the inclusion of “Back for Christmas,” an episode of the 1940s radio drama Suspense that, aside from its title, has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. By virtue of its length and position (spanning the first and second acts), this comic potboiler about a man plotting to kill his nagging wife becomes the de facto centerpiece, despite being at odds with the rest of McCabe’s material. The radio piece is at least well performed by the ensemble. The real standout of the evening is Marx’s affecting turn as Ferber’s Mrs. McChesney; too bad it’s placed midway through the first act.—Kris Vire