December 18, 2014
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Theatre Review
'It's a Wonderful Life' at Trinity
Don Fowler
Mark Turek
Pictured left to right: Anne Scurria, Joe Wilson Jr., Timothy Crowe, Rachael Warren and Mauro Hantman in "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play," adapted by Joe Landry, directed by Tyler Dobrowsky at Trinity Rep., now playing through Dec. 31 in the Dowling Theater. Set design by Michael McGarty, costumes by Alison Walker Carrier, lighting by John Ambrosone.

Trinity Rep brings back “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the live radio play adapted by Joe Landry, offering theatre-goers an alternative to their long-running “A Christmas Carol,” being performed overhead.

The Sarah and Joseph Dowling Jr. Theater provides a perfect space for the 90-minute one-act production, complete with old microphones, chairs, a Christmas tree, a sound booth and a foley artist (Benjamin Inniger) providing those old radio sounds.

I don’t recall any changes from last year’s splendid productions, except for the roles of George and Mary, played now by Mauro Hantman and Rachael Warren, married in the play and in real life. A lovely personal touch is added when the pregnant Warren announces that she has “one in the nest.”

Timothy Crowe is back providing a variety of wonderful voices, from the radio announcer to a mean Mr. Potter and a befuddled Uncle Billy. Anne Scurria plays the head angel, Viola Bick and a cute little girl, while Joe Wilson Jr. provides the voice of Clarence the Angel looking to gain his wings. All the actors provide a variety of other voices. Unlike listening to the radio, we are able to see the priceless expressions on their faces.

Set in a radio studio on Christmas Eve 1949, the play is at times spoken into the microphones and on a couple of occasions acted out on stage and in the aisles.

You know the story. (If not, where have you been all these years?) George has spent his life, giving up his dreams of college and travel, to run the small building and loan company in Bedford Falls. The mean old Mr. Potter has been threatening to buy him out for years. There’s a run on the bank. Uncle Billy loses a big deposit. All is lost. George jumps off a bridge.

But wait! Clarence the Angel is there to save him. George wishes he had never been born, and Clarence must grant his wish, showing him how important his life has been and what would have happened to the people of the small town if indeed he was never born.

Like “A Christmas Carol,” this is a story of love, caring and redemption. You’ll leave the theatre with a smile on your face, humming “Auld Lang Syne,” just as you did after watching the old black and white movie. It is a wonderful way to pick up your spirits.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” continues at Trinity Rep through Dec. 31. Call 351-4242 for reservations.


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