Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant
Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, 241-1278, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Tues-Thurs & Sun 7 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Dec 18, $15-40
'Tis the season for holiday-themed plays. I know firsthand that some clans demand a Yuletide performance as a family activity, and while I will manage to escape attending one with my family this year, those that must can go to Artists Repertory Theatre (ART)—for a harmless alternative to The Santaland Diaries.
Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant is a product of Seattle-based Book-It Repertory, a literature-inspired theater group. The authors (Jane Jones and Myra Platt), have transformed a fraction of John Irving's novel A Prayer for Owen Meany into a show just over an hour, and also adapted David Copperfield and The Awakening. Book-It's aim is to "transform great literature into great theatre" and "inspire audiences to read."
For those unfamiliar with Irving's book, Owen Meany is not, as his name may suggest, a bully. Quite the contrary, Owen is a wisp of a tween in 1953 New Hampshire. Fed up with playing the harnessed angel in the annual Christmas pageant, this year Owen refuses and, in so doing, shakes up tradition. Besides questioning the presence of no fewer than six turtledoves circling the manger, Owen also introduces a bit of metaphysics to his hometown and, of course, nothing is ever the same again.
Considering the Senior Citizen Center-friendly humor of Irving's story, the cast does well not to annoy. Genevieve Andersen (as the wallflower who wins the part of Mary) and Paul G. Miller (as the Angel on High) are particularly good, though the production's greatest asset is its ensemble cast. Although the talented Maureen Porter claims the most winning role as the stewardess-cum-preacher's wife, she appears to be phoning in her performance from earlier this year in Picnic.
To the end that Book-It strives to inspire audiences to read the originals, this production seems successful. Whether it's from ART's commendable production or the fact that the paperback can easily fit into a stocking, I can most certainly see Looking Glass Books receiving unheard-of numbers of requests for Irving's story this winter.