Delicious holiday treat at the BoarsHead

By | 2018-01-16T11:52:10-04:00 December 14th, 2006|Entertainment|

For an author who’s been dead 22 years, it’s somewhat surprising that the flamboyant Truman Capote is once again in the public eye. Although much of his recent fame is the result of two excellent movies that focus on Truman’s success as an adult, it is Capote’s early years that are explored in the autobiographical “Holiday Memories” at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theatre.
The result, I suspect Capote would say, is delicious!
The two-hour memory play, based on a pair of short stories written by Capote and adapted for the stage by Russell Vandenbroucke, provides much insight into his upbringing as a seven-year-old child during the Depression in Monroeville, Alabama. Abandoned by his mother and left to be raised by three elderly spinster cousins and an unmarried uncle, the lonely boy finds solace in Miss Sook, his youngest cousin, who becomes his best and only childhood friend.
Miss Sook, a simple, meek and childlike woman in her sixties, had little formal education – but plenty of love and smarts. In “The Thanksgiving Visitor,” she teaches Buddy – the nickname she gave her nephew – an important lesson after inviting the 12-year-old neighborhood bully to Thanksgiving dinner. Buddy doesn’t expect him to show, of course. After all, the constant beatings seem to prove that Odd Henderson hates the sissified boy. But Odd’s arrival and subsequent behavior provide Buddy with a way to get even with his guest – but at what cost?
In the second act, “A Christmas Memory,” Buddy and Miss Sook create one of the happiest holidays ever – despite a severe lack of funds to buy presents and a Christmas tree.
Vandenbroucke’s adaptation features an adult Capote relating his cherished memories to the audience. The stories are filled with a genuine sense of warmth and love, yet tinged with a smattering of sadness that acknowledges the rough times young Capote endured. Of the two halves, the second is more satisfying, as the love the cousins share is brought completely – and powerfully – into focus. And its emotional final moments will bring a tear or two to your eyes.
Slick direction is provided by BoarsHead co-founder Richard Thomsen. It is to his credit that the narrator is not the mincing, effete Capote as portrayed in the movies, as such an interpretation would focus the story on HIM and not the child he used to be.
Instead, Thomsen allows Michael Joseph Mitchell to TELL the story and not get in its way.
The show’s shining stars, however, are Carmen Decker as Miss Sook and Corey Reiger as Buddy.
Obviously an adult, Reiger is totally convincing as a seven-year-old – from his awkward body movements to a face and voice that clearly and concisely convey every thought and emotion that pop into his character’s juvenile mind.
Decker – one of Michigan’s crown jewels – finds every nuance the authors built into her character and gives them life. It’s yet another excellent performance from this Wilde Award-winning actress.
And together? The scene where Aunt Sook and Buddy warily approach Ha-Ha Jones’ Cafe looking to buy illegal whiskey is alone worth the price of admission.

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