Arts

The Tabard Theatre Brings a
Live Radio Play Version of
'Miracle on 34th Street'

Set in 1948, the nostalgic take highlights the hard work for immersive showbiz
magic, giving the play a humble feel that's consistent with the home-cooked moral.
Miracle on 34th Street HEARING IS BELIEVING: The ensemble portrays actors reading scripts through old-timey microphones to a "studio audience."

For Christmas, the Tabard Theatre is doing a play about a radio broadcast of a film. In a Miracle on 34th Street, the ensemble portrays actors reading scripts through old-timey microphones to a "studio audience." Meanwhile, a stage manager and sound effects man (Patrick DeRosa) bangs on a typewriter, raps on a small door or prompts "blings" and "clunks" from a rotary phone to match the action, manually creating the sonic illusion we outsourced to computers long ago.

Set in 1948, the nostalgic take highlights the hard work once needed for immersive showbiz magic, giving the play a humble feel that's consistent with the home-cooked moral. And despite the postmodern concept and a dedicated gag for Lux Soap (a phony advertiser), the show treats Miracle on 34th Street with the reverence it has typically received during the last half-century.

In the cherished holiday saga, a New York City Macy's employs a man who believes he is the bona fide Santa Claus. While employed, the man pioneers a profitable generosity-driven marketing scheme, sparks love between lawyer Fred Gailey (Kevin Kirby) and single mother Doris Walker (Mary Melnick) and finds himself pleading his sanity in a courtroom. Like all Christmas stories, the protagonists tsk-tsk rationalism and the audience sides with the sympathetic (if a bit delusional) believers.

Despite all logic, the judge dismisses the case. After the trial, Santa gives Gailey and the two Walker gals directions to the perfect colonial home for their soon-to-be family. Inside, the trio find the old man's distinctive cane, proving to them that the codger actually was Santa, and not just the beneficiary of some clever legal maneuvers.

I still don't buy it, and I actually think the story gains something when you see the central character as a nutter hellbent on proving he's a mythical do-gooder. The Christmas Spirit inspired him to risk permanent psychiatric institutionalization just to improve the Macy's shopping experience, unite three lonely strangers into one family and research the real estate market to find them the house of their dreams. That's a miracle.

No one should believe in Santa. But we can still believe in the selflessness he embodies and the lasting satisfaction he promises. When we're young, we live in a magical world, where if you're good, you get what you want. But as we grow older, we realize magic is made by people working very hard behind the scenes.

Miracle on 34th Street
Theatre on San Pedro Square, San Jose
Thru Dec 18,
$15-$40


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