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‘A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES’ IS RETURN TO A SIMPLER TIME’

Name of show: “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Written by: Dylan Thomas; directed by Stephen Rourke; performed by Eventide Theatre Co.

What it’s about: The late, great poet Dylan Thomas recalls one magical holiday from his childhood in Wales, celebrating Christmas Day and evoking the joys and wistful memories of a simpler time. There are presents, toffee and marzipan, turkey and Christmas pudding, carols and stories in the evening lamplight, and church bells, ringing from the “bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks.”

See it or not: Thomas’ irresistible account, adapted into this full-length musical play, poetically describes the joyous winters of his boyhood in the 1920s, where he tells us he “can’t remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”

Director Stephen Rourke and his cast have captured affectionate memories of Christmases past, perhaps bringing up some of our own, just beyond our reach, but ones we still recall – or think we do.

A young Dylan (Connor McLeod) and his father (Michael Weber) beautifully convey generous swatches of the poet’s words, and the fun and delight each cast member depicts on stage seems spontaneous, the affection among them real.

Michael Weber and Connor McLeod

Highlights: No rubber stamping here ― a dozen fine cast members excel at taking on the singular personalities of multiple characters. Most double ― or even triple up ― on their roles, often hilariously. Toby Wilson appears as a speech-prone anti-capitalist uncle one minute, and a few seconds later comes on stage as a fireman, mustache in place (just barely), arriving with his troops to put out a kitchen fire that’s just destroyed the turkey. In other scenes, Wilson’s a droll, scarf-wearing kid, out in the snow with Dylan and friends. Part of the play’s fun is watching for these quick changes that run throughout the scenes.

Whether it’s hurling snowballs at the neighborhood cats, trekking across the snowbound park with his friends, or telling ghost stories in the glow of lantern light, surrounded by his family, each scene depicts young Dylan’s delight in his childhood universe.

Connor McLeod plays a young Dylan Thomas

Interesting facts: The original “Child’s Christmas” was first recorded by Thomas and broadcast as a story on BBC Radio in the early 1950s, then published in book format in 1954. The recording itself became a classic, and has been described as instrumental in launching the audiobook industry in the United States.

Worth noting: An on-its-toes audience will be on the lookout for the well-known carols and hymns that supply much of the musical score, albeit with words sometimes changed, adding to the show’s gentle humor. Listen for “All Through the Night,” “God of Grace,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” “I Saw Three Ships” and many more.

One more thing: The Thomas family’s Christmas night entertainment is a marvelous combination of carols, bawdy songs of the day, ghost stories (“Tell a tale of something terrible,” they urge), dancing and more. The tale ends with the words that cap off this beautiful trip back in time: “I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”

If you go: Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 4. Gertrude Lawrence Stage at Dennis Union Church, 713 Main St., Dennis. $31; children under 12, $16 (Dec. 3, 2 p.m. only). Box office: (508) 233-2148, eventidearts.org/

― Barbara Clark

Life was very complicated and busy during the run of Into the Woods, and we really couldn't manage to see it, much to our disappointment. However, we had bought a ticket as a gift for a friend, who raved that it may have been the most professionally done community theatre she has seen here. We couldn't help wishing and hoping it might be repeated sometime. Anyway, that is why you had not heard our assessment of the play, and we wish it could be a rave from us and not just through us!

Betty & Noel Tipton

Eventide Theatre Company is a 501(c)3 independent theatre located in the heart of Dennis Village and is known for presenting  thought-provoking plays, concerts, lectures, and mixed media events. Annually Eventide hosts the Kaplan Playwriting/New Plays competition.