TheatreVirginia's "Holiday Memories" makes a smooth transition from page to stage. 

Capote's Christmas

The biggest potential pitfall in transforming literature into a theatrical production is interpretation. The main danger is that the beauty of the story may be lost, or that it will be difficult to translate to the stage. However, TheatreVirginia's "Holiday Memories," the adaptation of two memoirs by the famous Southern writer Truman Capote, easily dodges these potential problems.

Russell Vandenbroucke's theatrical adaptation of Capote's "The Thanksgiving Visitor" and "A Christmas Memory" allows the brilliance of the author's language to come alive. Under the direction of M. Burke Walker — whose play "Proof" received this year's Pulitzer Prize in drama — Capote's childhood recollections remain true to the text while maintaining the authenticity and ease of an original play.

The narration of the play is split between the adult Truman (Joe Inscoe) and "Buddy," Truman's 7-year-old self (John Summerour). The combination of these narrative voices — the omniscient adult who is remembering the events throughout the play and the young child who is in the middle of them — allows for a fascinating dynamic onstage.

What makes the narration even more compelling is the choice Walker made in filling the role of the younger Truman with an adult. While the role was originally intended for a child actor, Summerour does a fantastic job in recreating the mannerisms of a 7-year-old boy and shares a great chemistry with Inscoe. Both narrators relate the story in tandem, venting equal amounts of anger and frustration for the bully Odd Henderson (Jack Parrish) and love and sentiment for Aunty Sook Faulk (DeAnn Mears). This narration becomes all the more believable and enjoyable with the uncanny resemblance both actors bear to each other and to Capote himself.

Another strength of the production is Walker's staging, which employs both sight and sound to put the audience in Capote's rural Alabama. Throughout the play, Boyd Deering plays the mandolin onstage beside the actors. While having a musician onstage might seem intrusive, Deering blends into the set and enhances the scenes, whether they depict a walk through the woods or the comedy behind a house cleaning before Thanksgiving. The lighting (David McLain) and set design (David Crank) are wonderful as well. Both help to bring forward the warmth that is felt between the characters, whether they are sitting before flickering firelight or hiding in a warm country kitchen.

Although there is a clunky beginning to Act II (background information from Act I is unnecessarily repeated), the play runs smoothly and is highly enjoyable.

The only real flaw in the production may be in the presentation of Capote himself. In life, Capote was as highly effeminate as he was flamboyantly excessive, but Inscoe plays the adult Capote as more of a masculine good old boy. This choice may have been to attract a wider audience, but it is one that subtly detracts from Capote's character.

Capote's capricious nature is the main reason why he was able to create memoirs that were both so funny and touching in the first place. However, this point is a minor one and doesn't detract from the overall delight the play provides. Capote's mannerisms aside, "Holiday Memories" provides the audience with that rare example of what happens when great literature and great theater come together.

TheatreVirginia presents "Holiday Memories" through Dec. 22. Tickets cost $28-$36 and can be purchased at the box office. 353-6161


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