This isn’t a theatrical review in the traditional sense. If it was, I would talk about the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs, Alabama; what all was involved in staging “The Christmas Letters”; and the many fine performances that comprised that staging, both dramatic and musical.
But I’m not going to do that.
I would like, instead, to talk about how I rediscovered today, in an old church converted into a theater, that live drama can touch the heart more immediately and deeply than any of the other art forms.
In a story that spans 50 years, three generations of women are followed through their lives, as told in annual “Christmas letters” written to update family on what all has been going on. Through elopements, births, deaths, war, deception, and divorce — and all points in between — the characters lives unfold. The production was filled with beautifully understated bluegrass songs that helped shape the mood, reflect the characters struggles and joys, and even convey recipes. Its an odd mix, but then, so is life.
Men sort of come and go in the story, leaving for reasons like premature death, divorce, or even sudden disappearance. The women of the family stolidly (or not) continue on: loving, growing, sorrowing. I felt as though I had relived my own mother’s life, and part of her mother’s seeing this story. The sweep of history, and the way our love-of-mate or children shapes our lives, flowing as it inevitably does into either deepening, or, turning meaningless over time is shown over and over. It is a beautiful and terrible and very real thing.
I’m grateful to the writers, composer, musicians, producer, director, and actor/singers for this wonderful production. I know I will never see anything quite like it again.