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Theatre Review: The Gift of the Magi

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 26, 2012
"The Gift of the Magi" is a famous short story about love, sacrifice, beautiful combs and a platinum watch chain. The original tale is just a few pages long - you could read the whole thing during intermission. So every stage adaptation inevitably adds music and dialog.
But I've never seen a version quite like this one. Playwright Jerry Montoya has moved the setting to the 1930s - the Great Depression. And he's turned all the characters into talking animals. This show has so many furry costumes with tails and funny ears that you almost think it's the musical "Cats."
One of Montoya's added characters is a fox named Winnie. She runs a beauty parlor, and talks like she's from Brooklyn.

Winne: Give me a hand, wouldja? (vocal buzz in background)

Reminds you of "The Honeymooners," doesn't she?

Winnie:  No problem! It's not every day that your husband becomes the greatest train conductor that ever lived.

Winnie is congratulating Della. But when Della's husband goes to work the next day, he learns the railroad's gone bust. He sadly tells Della he's jobless.

James: What are we going to do?

Della: I've still got my job. We'll figure it out.

James: I know. But all I ever wanted to do is be a train conductor. That's all I know how to do.

Della: Well, one thing's for certain. Things can't get any worse.

(Knock at the door)

Winnie: Who could that be?

It's man with a telegram, announcing that the train conductor's wife is losing her job as a school teacher because of the economy. Now they're both jobless.

Telegram: All classes not directly related to math, reading or science have been cancelled. Stop. To clarify, you're fired. Stop.

This added material takes things far afield from O. Henry, but it makes for a lively show with "kid appeal," and lots of surprises. "The Gift of a Magi" is this year's left-field entry in the holiday show sweepstakes - a crazy idea that actually works. And in the end, husband James does present wife Della with combs for her lovely hair, and Della gives James a platinum chain for his heirloom watch - the very ending that O. Henry wrote a century ago, even if he didn't anticipate talking animals. 

The B Street Family Series production of "The Gift of the Magi" continues on weekends through December 30th.
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