Capsule Reviews

The Gift of the Magi Feeling a little anemic Christmas spiritwise? This production by the Classical Acting Company is just the tonic for the holiday-weary. Dallas actor-writer Lee Trull blends two O. Henry stories--Magi and Compliments of the Season--into a seamless one-act that loses not a morsel of the writer's trademark irony and wit. It's the classic tale of an unexpected Christmas miracle. Jim (Steven Walters) and Della (Elise Reynard) are newlyweds circa 1907, living in a sparsely furnished walk-up in Lower Manhattan, "married to each other, married to poverty." Jim, a writer, regales the delicate Della with fanciful stories, from the baseball player he met at a busy lunch counter to the wild and woolly adventures of three down-and-outers who find a kid's lost doll and try to cash in on a $100 reward. Rich in love, Jim and Della are poor in finances, down to their last few pennies. No gifts, they promise. But they can't help themselves. Each thinks of the perfect present the other will love. But what must they sacrifice to buy them? No spoilers here, in case you've forgotten O. Henry's famous tragicomic twist at the end of the story. But even if you know it, you'll get swept into the simple elegance of this beautifully acted and precisely staged production (directed by Matthew Gray). When Walters sweeps Reynard into his arms for a slow waltz across the floor to the warm notes of a far-off cello, it's as lovely a moment in the theater as we've witnessed all year. Shows this good really do feel like a gift. Through December 24 at the Arena Theater, Fannin Hall, Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road, 214-505-1655. Reviewed December 16. (Elaine Liner)

The Santaland Diaries This is the fourth year Dallas actor Nye Cooper has channeled the Spirit of Christmas Gay in David Sedaris' minty, flinty one-man show about a New York newcomer hired as a lowly Santa's helper at Macy's Herald Square. With fresh direction by WaterTower Theatre's Terry Martin and a spiffy new set by Clare Floyd Devries, it feels like a brand-new show. Cooper, as always, can generate laughs just with the strategic arching of one black eyebrow. But now he's comfortable enough with the audience to take his time telling the story of the cynical elf-for-hire who finds himself caught up in the strange magic of life inside Santa's "magic tree." In short chapters, we follow "Crumpet" through elf training, his first long days on the job, his crush on fellow elf Snowball, the psychic wounds of being shrieked at by harried parents and the final run-up to the big day when at last he can shed his velvet knickers and pointy hat. Cooper's performance catches all of Sedaris' wry timing (the author first read this material as a series of essays on National Public Radio), but he brings his own wry touches to the part. He makes one delicious Crumpet. Through December 23 at the Stone Cottage, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, 214-450-6232. (E.L.)

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