A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (Lantern): Idyllic visions of a holiday past

“It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas.”

The cast of the Lantern’s A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

The cast of the Lantern’s A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Such are the joyous recollections of Dylan Thomas’s beloved first-person anecdotes—written for radio and first recorded by the author in 1952—of a simple Welsh Christmastime seen through the eyes of a child. Lantern Theater Company’s world premiere adaptation of A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES by Charles McMahon and Sebastienne Mundheim, the inventive “interdisciplinary performance-maker” who designed the production and also directs, captures all the warmth, nostalgia, and childlike wonder of the original, employing live actors, puppets, miniature houses, plastic-bag clouds, and exhilarating snow flurries to transform Thomas’s descriptive language and idealized memories into an enchanting theatrical vision.

The Lantern’s imaginative version retains Thomas’s fictionalized autobiographical format, while enhancing the exquisite text with evocative lighting (Shon Causer), sound effects, and original music (Robert Kaplowitz), slow-motion and stylized movement, and the visual magic of everyday detritus turned into cherished objects and familiar landscapes. The result is a dreamlike mood, halfway between the hazy distant remembrances of childhood and a wistful adult longing for a return to its innocence, first-time discoveries, and unadulterated happiness. A bittersweet prologue, with narrator Geneviève Perrier unwrapping family memorabilia from a cardboard box, donning the old tweed jacket and cap of a young boy from an earlier generation (redolent earth-toned costumes by Jillian Keys), and reading the story’s opening passage from a well-worn book, triggers the romantic recall of carefree times spent with lost loved ones.

Charlie DelMarcelle, Geneviève Perrier, Amy Smith, and Doug Hara in the Lantern’s A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Charlie DelMarcelle, Geneviève Perrier, Amy Smith, and Doug Hara in the Lantern’s A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Staged as if the grown-up actors were over-grown children playing with toys, the ensemble of Charlie DelMarcelle, Doug Hara, and Amy Smith brings charm and tenderness to their reenactments, as they shift their voices, assume readily legible facial expressions, and lose themselves in the euphoria, surprises, and comforts of childhood. Perrier delivers a flawless narration, never once missing a beat and always savoring Thomas’s, and Mundheim’s, vivid delights with wide-eyed awe.

The Lantern’s picturesque holiday production, appropriate for all ages, runs just under an hour, but it will surely steal your heart in an instant! December 5, 2013-January 5, 2014, lanterntheater.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.