In literature and film, Christmas is all about selflessness and
generosity of spirit. "It's a Wonderful Life," a Christmas television staple,
epitomizes this tradition.
In the 1946 Frank Capra film, when a young man's dreams are
repeatedly stymied by his responsibility to others and his efforts to do the
unconventional, intervention -- that despite it all, he really has had a
rich, meaningful and love-filled life.
Now, the Marin Theatre Company forges a new tradition and creates
its own form of Christmas magic by bringing this well-loved movie to life as
a radio play, under the direction of Jon Tracy and with five consummate
actors creating their multiple characters -- and the sounds that surround
them -- before the audience's eyes.
Set in 1946 in a radio station in a wintry, art deco New York
(sets by Eric Sinkkonen), this 1997 adaptation by Jon Landry calls on its
actors to not only be the voices of the townsfolk of Bedford Falls, N.Y., but
also to be the artists who step into character to perform those roles.
As they prepare, or sing jingles, or produce the myriad sound
effects of this radio drama, they remind and enlighten us about a now nearly
forgotten form of theater, one that made far more demands on its audience's
imaginative powers than current media do.
Gabriel Marin is George Bailey, whose life, though difficult,
ultimately proves to be "wonderful." Marin ably takes George on the roller coaster from youthful enthusiasm to romantic attachment to the brink of financial disaster and near-total disillusionment, only to reach a defining, transcendent moment.
Sarah Overman similarly evolves through the years, from infatuated
high schooler to college graduate, to George's wife, Mary Michael Gene Sullivan is Freddie Filmore, the host of the show and the embodiment of numerous, very different characters, including the rapacious capitalist, Henry Potter.
Patrick Kelly Jones also performs several roles, most notably
Clarence, the unorthodox angel who guides George to his personal salvation.
And Carrie Paff ably performs roles as diverse as the local femme fatale and
a very young girl.
"It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" has the combination of
wholesomeness and humor that make the play "family friendly" at this time of
year, not to mention the fascination it provides of revealing the way
familiar sounds are created, the old-fashioned way, by means of the most
mundane, unlikely objects.
The play continues at the company's Mill Valley theater through
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