note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark
Sets & Costumes by Polly Hogan
Stage Manager Polly Hogan
In 1974, with a production of S. N. Behrman's "The Second Man" Ron Ritchell and Polly Hogan started a brand new theatrical company in a third-floor room in the Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston street. Two years later, after they had moved the company into "sumptuous" permanent quarters in a second-floor space on Charles Street, they greeted the holiday season with a stage adaptation of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales". And this year they are back, right where they started, giving Boston that same lyrically lovely celebration of vibrant prose and poetry for the twenty-second consecutive time. They call themselves the "Lyric West Theatre" now, and by January will move into sumptuous new quarters at Pine Manor College, but the words are gloriously, movingly, delightfully the same.
But it never sounds the same, does it? Oh, there are those unforgettable recreations of language ("the duchess-faced horse" "an aunt, alas, no longer whinnying with us" ), and the eternally evocative "Fern Hill" and Miss Prothero's words to the Christmas firemen --- but, for all its brevity, the poet and the actors thrust their hands into that wool-white bundle of memories and out come old words that are always new every year.
The company is only three this year, but when Ron Ritchell is first the older Dylan Thomas reminiscing and then that same remembered child complete with a crocheted nosewarmer, the cast of characters rather than actors doubles and redoubles. Nigel Gore clatters through the house as a rambunctious playmate, and rumbles digestively as a post-prandial uncle. Renee Miller is both the harried Mum and the liberal-handed custodian of the home-made wine "because it's only once a year."
Yes, only once a year, but every year, and now for twenty-two of them in a row. And could it ever be Christmas without it?