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Heaven's Convicts

My Three Angels
Stairway to Heaven: Mark J. Hetrick (top), Daraj Maxfield (middle) and Gary S. Martinez make merry in "My Three Angels."

Photo by Dave Lepori

Tricksters saves Christmas in 'Three Angels'

By Heather Zimmerman

SAN JOSÉ Stage Company's seasonal production is a charming yet slightly dark holiday comedy by Sam and Bella Spewack, based on a French play by Albert Husson. My Three Angels focuses on the spirit of the season, but it playfully celebrates the themes of "peace on Earth, etc." in a less than angelic manner.

Gary S. Martinez, Daraj Maxfield and Mark J. Hetrick all give delightfully buoyant performances as Joseph, Jules and Alfred, three convicts in turn-of-the-century French Guyana who bring Christmas cheer--in a rather Machiavellian way--to the troubled Ducotel family.

Beset by a floundering business and worried about their daughter's ostensibly failed love match, Felix and Emilie Ducotel (Frank Widman and Bridget Blacksmith) face a difficult holiday made worse by the impending arrival of their store's principal investor, the domineering Henri Trochard, portrayed by Al Blair with a booming cruelty that rivals old Ebenezer himself. Susy McInerney is winning as Marie Louise, the Ducotel's naive daughter, who is in love with Trochard's nephew, Paul, a repellent dandy (Michael Romo).

Although doing your neighbors "a good turn" doesn't generally include stealing supplies for Christmas dinner, cheating their customers and killing off their worst enemy, Joseph, Jules and Alfred bring happiness to the Ducotel household with the knowledge that what their new friends don't know can only brighten their holiday.

The deceptive quality of appearances is key in this play. From the truly good intentions of the three convicts to the inner ugliness of colonial society's upstanding citizens, My Three Angels highlights the holiday theme of goodwill to all by warning against judgments made on outward impressions.

Consistent with the theme, all the characters bear noticeable traces of stereotypes, from Marie Louise the ingenue to Felix the bumbling head of the family. The convicts, too, fit the molds of various types: Alfred is the romantic; Joseph, the epicure; and Jules, the paternal type. Although the three "angels" each best aid the family in these relatively typical roles, they are invariably the most complex and accessible characters in the play. The cast capably portrays the subtle contrast between the more stereotypical citizens and the less predictable "criminals" in all-around strong performances.

With voices sometimes projected beyond the requirements of the intimate Stage Company theater, the vivacity of the actors occasionally overpowers the inviting atmosphere created Rob Hamilton's cozy and detailed period set.

My Three Angels plays Wednesday­Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through Dec. 29 at The Stage, 490 S. First Street, San Jose. Tickets are $15­$25. (408/283-7142)

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From the December 5-11, 1996 issue of Metro

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