Looking to celebrate tradition, family, and friendship? Consider Quill Theatre’s Holiday Memories playing at Grace Street Theater in the heart of VCU. This unique adaptation of the autobiographical story “A Christmas Memory” will entertain Truman Capote fans especially.
Set in Monroeville, Alabama, during Capote’s youth, it is narrated by an older Truman, played by Eddie Webster. The storyteller meanders around the stage, shadowing his younger self, played by Henry Boyle, who brings the reminiscings to life. Since the set is sparse and the props are minimal, the characters reenact familiar holiday adventures, like cutting down a Christmas tree, using interesting tableaus, mime, and even synchronized motions, expertly choreographed by Kay Weinstein Gray.
It’s an unusual friendship between young Capote, also known as Buddy, and his older distant cousin, Miss Sook, played by Jody Smith Strickler, yet the audience enjoys watching them bake fruitcakes, make wreaths, and craft the family’s ornaments. Repurposing paper from Hershey wrappers for decorations, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for a time when less was more. However, it’s Woman, played expertly by Maggie Bavolack, who steals the show. Her portrayal of Queenie, Capote’s dog, is hilarious and her animated depictions of an assortment of characters keep the audience laughing. The original country Christmas music composed by Drew Perkins was a charming bonus.
One of the things I liked most about the stage adaptation is the way the Capote’s beautiful words are woven throughout the production. For example, when Buddy and Miss Sook are reprimanded for drinking the remainder of the whiskey after the fruitcakes are finished, Miss Sook runs to her room and cries. Capote artfully explains that her pillow was “as wet as a widow’s handkerchief” when he went to console his cousin.
Holiday Memories provides an interesting perspective of how we reminisce about childhood and how we feel about family members who are also our friends. It’s even more fascinating given these innocent memories stand in stark contrast to the typical images associated with this famous author. So be prepared for this production to not only inspire a trip down memory lane but also a search for a fruitcake recipe, as it’s always fun making old things new again.
Quill Theatre’s Holiday Memories runs through December 26 at Grace Street Theater. Click here for showtimes, tickets, and information on easy and affordable parking.