By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
About halfway into the story of James, Della and their forsworn pact not to spend money on Christmas gifts, Magi is interrupted so that James can tell another O. Henry tale, Compliments of the Season. Trull has him relate the saga of gang toughs who ransom a child's toy back to a wealthy family as though it were one of his own new magazine submissions. It's a funny little tale, made only a little less entertaining in this performance by the intrusion of some recorded New Age flamenco on Matthew Gray's too insistent sound design. (Gray also directed.)
That's a minor flaw in a production that holds many joys, most notably the heartfelt, carefully crafted performances of Reynard and Walters. This pair recently appeared together in Second Thought's provocative staging of Eric Bogosian's Humpty Dumpty, and they've developed an easy and believable onstage rapport. As Della and James, they waltz delicately around a sparsely furnished room, holding each other closely, gazing lovingly into each other's eyes. It's one of those special moments of live theater that makes you happy to be in the room.
Perhaps the best thing Classical's Gift of the Magi has going for it is its efficiency. Lasting just 65 minutes, it's just long enough to feel like an evening of theater but not so long as to produce droopy eyelids after a day of big-box shopping. It might be a little wordy and sentimental for the littlest angels--take them to Jack and the Beanstalk instead. But for anyone else who craves a little Christmas show without a Scrooge in it, Magi is pure magic.