A Christmas Pudding at Open Window Theatre

Sally Ann Wright, Peter Simmons, Ben Wagner, and Kaija Pellinen.  Photos: Open Window Theatre.

Sally Ann Wright, Peter Simmons, Ben Wagner, and Kaija Pellinen in “A Christmas Pudding.” Photo: Open Window Theatre

Are you not the type for irreverence? Not in the mood for a blockbuster Broadway show? Wondering what happened to wholesome, traditional Christmas variety shows? Open Window Theatre has an answer for you. “A Christmas Pudding,” adapted by David Birney and directed by Greta Grosch is a pleasant and nostalgic evening of readings and songs, strung together like cranberry and popcorn garland on a real Christmas tree.

There’s no story that I could discern – no real thread, other than the subject of Christmas. But how much explaining is necessary? Still, I would have liked a point of some kind. I kept waiting for one to be revealed, but by intermission it was clear that the stories and songs could have been strung – just like the cranberries and popcorn – in pretty much any order. It’s folksy, gentle and kind, but it’s hard to present a piece of writing as theater when it’s not, really.

Four singer/actors play all the parts, and provide their own accompaniment on autoharp, guitar and mandolin. Peter Simmons, Sally Ann Wright, Kaija Pellinen and Paul Somers deftly slip on a hat or scarf, adopt an accent or pick up an instrument. Then someone bursts into song, another may join for a quick refrain, and it’s off to another famous “take” on this 2,000-year-old story. George Bernard Shaw, Walter de la Mare, Sir Thomas Mallory, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Shakespeare are all represented.

And, of course, Charles Dickens. Scenes from “A Christmas Carol, with Simmons playing a dandy Scrooge, were good fun. And Pellinen cooking up a fruitcake, with an emphasis on the rum, was a silly charmer.

It’s understandable why there have been so many renditions of O Henry’s story, “The Gift of the Magi” created for theater. It is clever and appealing, even decades later. The simple re-enactment by Pellinen and Somers captured the youthful tenderness of the young couple.

While Wright is a skilled and versatile performer, and a real presence on a stage, I especially savored her luscious low notes delivered as effortlessly as a baritone.

In this production there were opportunities for more poignancy, I thought, even with the overall light touch– “Midnight Mass,” certainly, by David Birney, which culminates in “Silent Night.” The whole show is little loose, but one might attribute that to “casual,” as opposed to “sloppy.” If that’s your style, you’ll be relaxed and content and this seasonal warmer-upper. It has the feel of a neighborhood event or a family gathering: heart-warming as opposed to heart-thumping.

“A Christmas Pudding” runs through December 29. Check the theater’s website for directions, which are more reliable than your GPS.



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