Friday, December 12, 2008

Beasley's Christmas Party


Adapted by C.W. Munger from the story by Booth Tarkington. Dir. Carl Forsman. Keen Company. (CLOSED)

Specializing in earnest stagings of overlooked works of a bygone age, the Keen Company may have hit on a holiday perennial with this adaptation of a story by Booth Tarkington. Critics noted a few longeuers in its telling but had little but the warmest admiration for its three-member cast under director Carl Forsman, and above all for its welcome and convincing message of good will (perhaps most remarkably, given recent headlines, a virtuous Midwestern politician has a central role).

Variety A
(Sam Thielman) Keen a.d. and helmer Carl Forsman and a passel of well-respected designers (costumer Theresa Squire and inspired set decorator Beowulf Boritt, to name two) have made their earnest show look beautiful, and the tiny cast gives a multiplicity of wonderfully precise performances as the inhabitants of its smalltown setting...Although the 1909 slang hits the ear a little off-key, there's a goodhearted intelligence to all these portrayals.

Time Out NY A
(Adam Feldman) This heartfelt fable is a sweet, humble gift to the season. It’s the thoughtfulness that counts. Keen Company’s Carl Forsman doesn’t try to gussy up the story or disguise its literary origins...The tale begins as something of a mystery story, but evolves—at a leisurely, fireside pace—into a touching exploration of imagination, loneliness and the virtue of kindness. In terms of dazzle, Beasley’s Christmas Party can hardly compete with White Christmas or the Rockette launch at Radio City. It gets its Christmas cheer the old-fashioned way: It earns it. A-
(Fred Backus) A tale of good-hearted Christmas cheer that might be a perfect respite for those seeking shelter from the waves of commercialism and cynicism that roll in this time of year...The production as a whole veers towards being a little too breezy at times, and the very short running time and a lean three-person cast make it feel in some ways a little on the bare-bones side as well. All in all, though, Beasley's Christmas Party is a very rich experience, and much of this has to do with the fantastic actors that director Carl Forsman has assembled.

Theatermania A-
(Barbara & Scott Siegel) A 75-minute charmer that manages the neat trick of being both tender and tart. Adapted by CW Munger from Booth Tarkington's story, and surely directed by Carl Forsman, the play finds its way into your heart through its careful balance of broad performance and purposeful understatement. And while this delicate and sensitive Christmas story is about love and redemption, it is also chock full of barbs about politics that are as pointed today as they were at the turn of the 20th Century, when the play is set...All three actors, especially Collins and Scott-Reed who play multiple roles, give the play just enough verisimilitude to make it seem real within its quaint bubble of mythic Americana

CurtainUp B+
(Paulanne Simmons) A heartwarming tribute to the holiday spirit...The play suffers from far too much narration...However, once the talented cast gets its hands on the script, the play takes off, only occasionally stymied by the narrator's reappearance. Using excellent miming skills and the transformative power of their faces, Scott-Reed and Collins give each of their characters a distinct personality. Even the invisible characters come to life through the mock serious dialogue.

American Theatre Web B+
(Andy Propst) The simple charms of life in a small town in a bygone era prove almost irresistible in CW Munger's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's story Beasley's Christmas Party...staged with gentleness by the company's artistic director Carl Forsman...There is enough in the production to make theatergoers themselves long for the warmth of a fireside in a small town where scandals are never much more than a tempest in a teapot.

NY Times B+
(Jason Zinoman) Solidly second-rate, a pleasingly understated and optimistic romantic story, without an ounce of cynicism, and told with such a light touch that you might overlook its contrivances...In its wholesome and winning all-American way this show provides an alternative to the usual holiday escapism. Instead of declaring that you leave your troubles at the door, it insists that poetry and romance may just be right next door.

NY Post B
(Frank Scheck) Tarkington's graceful language is brought to the stage by adapter C.W. Munger, although there's a little too much reliance on delivering the original prose. More dramatizing and less narration would have made the charming tale even more effective. Under the sure-footed direction of Carl Forsman, Collins and Scott-Reed play their multiple roles in remarkably versatile fashion, with Josh Bradford's subtle lighting changes aiding them in their rapid-fire transformations.

Variety A 13; Time Out NY A 13; A- 12; Theatermania A- 12; CurtainUp B+ 11; American Theatre Web B+ 11; NY Times B+ 11; NY Post B 10; TOTAL: 93/8=11.63 (A-)

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