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Beasley's Christmas Party

The Keen Company's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's story is short, sweet, and delightful.

By New York City
Tony Ward, Joseph Collins and Christa Scott-Reed
in Beasley's Christmas Party
(© Suzi Sadler)
Tony Ward, Joseph Collins and Christa Scott-Reed
in Beasley's Christmas Party
(© Suzi Sadler)
Beasley's Christmas Party, now being presented by the Keen Company at Theatre Row, is a 75-minute charmer that manages the neat trick of being both tender and tart. Adapted by CS Munger from Booth Tarkington's story, and surely directed by Carl Forsman, the play finds its way into your heart through its careful balance of broad performance and purposeful understatement. And while this delicate and sensitive Christmas story is about love and redemption; it is also chock full of barbs about politics that are as pointed today as they were at the turn of the 20th Century, when the play is set.

The story begins with a long, very literary monologue that, while beautiful, is anything but theatrical. The lovely, if deadly, prose is delivered with determination by Booth (Tony Ward) a newspaperman new to the city of Wainwright, the state capital of an unnamed but clearly midwestern state. The play finally comes to life when the script allows Booth to stop reciting prose and to start feeling -- at the moment he meets Anne Apperthwaite (Christa Scott-Reed), his landlord's attractive daughter.

Although he's enamored of the young woman, Booth soon learns that she was once the fiancé of the man who lives in the mansion next door, the powerful and much-admired politician, Mr. Beasley (Joseph Collins). Beasley is also rather famously a man of few words. It's a running gag throughout the play that he barely deigns to talk. And that was why Miss Apperthwaite finally broke up with him after a two-year engagement: she was bored. She bitterly complains throughout the play that Mr. Beasley has no imagination. Booth, however, stumbles upon a mystery surrounding the reclusive Beasley, and begins to investigate, only to learn a far more profound secret about this diffident and supposedly unimaginative man. A denouement to the goings-on concludes at the titular Christmas party.

All three actors, especially Collins and Scott-Reed who play multiple roles, give the play just enough verisimilitude to make it seem real within its quaint bubble of mythic Americana. The set design by Beowulf Boritt enhances the metaphoric quality of the play, while lighting designer Josh Bradford subtly captures the constant change of characters by Collins and Scott-Reed by lighting them differently with the emergence of each new personality.

Like a good host that knows when to stop talking, Beasley's Christmas Party is short, sweet, and delightful.


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