Blue Christmas

Gifts of the Magi

John David (right) to Jerry Sullivan: “I’m telling you, it’s not swag.”

John David (right) to Jerry Sullivan: “I’m telling you, it’s not swag.”

Rated 3.0

Jim and Della, a young married couple living on the edge of poverty, aren’t exactly in the best of holiday spirits. They’ve been that way ever since the factory that Jim was going to inherit one day burned to the ground. As if that weren’t bad enough, some people have been talking and they blame Jim for the fire.

That’s nonsense, Della assures him as she brushes her long, silky red hair.

As Jim leaves, Della rushes to her dresser in which she hides a change box. She drops the money on the table and sits, crestfallen. “What could I possibly buy with $1.87?”

Likewise, Jim finds himself with only a dollar—far too little to buy his beautiful bride the type of gift she deserves.

Nothing may be going right, but the two of them decide that they are going to make this Christmas their best ever. They need this, and they deserve it after such a hard year. They plan to buy each other a special gift—a gift that they will cherish for years to come. But how will they ever do this with such a pittance of funds? They both come to the same conclusion—each of them must sell something they dearly love.

Stagewright Presentations’ Gifts of the Magi is a simple, straightforward adaptation of what is arguably one of O. Henry’s most famous works. The presentation is so straightforward, in fact, that it may leave some seasoned theatergoers wondering if they missed something. Indeed, one need not look below the surface to find the true meaning of the story: the qualities of giving, forgiving and love.

Henry, born William Sydney Porter in 1862, claimed his stories stemmed from the events and circumstances of his life. By the age of 25, he had tried his hand at being a cowboy, sheepherder, mailman, cook, draftsman and real estate clerk; he then turned to writing and publishing a humorous weekly paper, the Rolling Stone. It was about this time that he was accused of embezzling $5,000, although evidence eventually proved his innocence. While in prison, he sold his first story.

In 1902 Henry moved to New York, where he began writing one story a week for the New York Sunday World (then the country’s largest newspaper). “The Gift of the Magi” was one of these stories.

Teamed with local writer and teacher John David in the role of Jim, Lauren DeLong offers a heartwarming performance in the principal role of the soft-tempered Della. Joined by a supporting cast of community players, the group brings the tale to life, bringing with them a feel of innocence not seen in many modern productions.

The show has the added pleasure of live piano music before and during the performance, provided by local ragtime pianist Alan Ashby.

One of the play’s most pleasant aspects may be its set. Simple and functional, it brilliantly utilizes the limited space of the William J. Geery Theater’s stage while maintaining a visually pleasing design.

There is something to be said for community theater during the holiday season. It embodies all the richness and joy of people coming together to spread the message of peace and joy throughout the world. Stagewright Presentations’ Gifts of the Magi does just this.