Very few actors in this region can match John S. Davies' adeptness at finding the lyrical rhythms in a play's text and skill in exploring the silence between words and phrases, those pauses that enhance a play's sense while drawing its audience in deeper. He makes it look so simple. Davies demonstrates his professional acumen with charm and grace as the narrator/author in the stage adaptation of Truman Capote's A Holiday Memory, running through Dec. 15 at the Bath House Cultural Center under the aegis of One Thirty Productions.
Reliving the intimate details of an unforgettable Christmas Capote spent with eccentric "Cousin Sook," Davies handles the author's poetic language throughout with wry humor and fond detachment, while maintaining a ghostly presence, peripheral to every scene. Set in Monroeville, Ala., in 1933, the play has the adult Capote lead the audience down a sweet, nostalgic path to visit a simpler, kinder time in a small, shy boy's life. Davies' Capote offers each audience member a uniquely memorable gift of live theater in celebration of this season of joy.
Directed with close attention to intimate detail by B. J. Cleveland, one of the region's busiest and most versatile stage artists, the play's action concerns the day-to-day activities of young Truman with his somewhat batty Cousin Sook, while both live at the home of relatives. Jaxson Huse and Gene Raye Price immediately establish a close bond of love and friendship between the lonely lad and his older female relation. As their adventures and escapades unfold realistically, Davies' Capote wanders through the action, sometimes commenting on the duo, sometimes "filling in" when a minor character needs to appear.
The worlds of realism and imaginative memory blend smoothly, thanks to Cleveland's crisp direction and the tight ensemble focus of the three actors. They charm the audience, celebrate a wonderful memory and offer a welcome respite to the season's plethora of grand spectacle and frenzied sugarplums. Local musician Johnny Sequenzia (currently doing double duty on local stages; he's also a musician in On the Eve at the Magnolia Lounge) adds warm homespun flavor to the show, introducing or accompanying many of the scenes on guitar, mandolin and harmonica.
Costumes by Marty Van Kleeck, set design by Theresa Furphy and lighting by Eric Briggs support the era depicted as well as the lyrical nostalgia of the work. By the play's end, it's not hard for the audience to envision a pair of homemade kites "hurrying up to Heaven" together.
◊ One Thirty Productions' performances of "A Holiday Memory", with an added matinee on Tuesday Dec. 11, are sold out; call anyway to get on the waiting list. Groups welcome. 214-532-1709 or www.bathhousecultural.com