Holiday revisit

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

During a month when a trip to the mall threatens to rot the teeth with seasonal saccharine, the Truman Capote double bill at CATCO generates warmth in the appreciation of simple pleasures.

As CATCO celebrates its 25th anniversary, the theater company and director Geoffrey Nelson are to be commended for reviving a production that was a favorite in the late 1980s and early '90s.

Capote, who died in 1984, is best remembered for his groundbreaking "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood and the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's. But his personal favorites included the two autobiographical stories that serve as the basis for CATCO's double bill.

The Thanksgiving Visitor, originally published in McCall's magazine in 1967, and A Christmas Memory, first appearing in Mademoiselle in the mid-1950s, recalled Capote's childhood in Alabama during the Depression. How thoughtful of CATCO to bring these back in time for our current round of economic turmoil.

Each of the plays is essentially a dramatized reading of the short story, but thanks to Capote's elegant and subtle way with words and the skill of the cast, an entire place and time come to life.

As the child Capote - dubbed "Buddy" in both stories - Ian Short invests intelligence in the future author without shortchanging the little boy. His portrayal is a worthy successor to that of Jonathan Putnam in years past.

Linda Dorff's performance as Miss Sook, Buddy's elderly cousin, caretaker, and closest friend, is less childlike than Ionia Zelenka's all those years ago, but works just as well. Curtis A. Brown tempers menace with gentility as Buddy's schoolyard nemesis Odd Henderson.

Both stories are moral tales that tell us about human relations, cruelty and kindness, generosity and the living of life. In The Thanksgiving Visitor, Miss Sook invites Odd to the family's holiday meal, to Buddy's horror. In A Christmas Memory, Miss Sook and Buddy perform their annual ritual of gathering the ingredients for and baking enough fruitcakes to serve the immediate world.

Capote's deceptively spare stories, heartbreakingly told in CATCO's production, offer a potent antidote to the excesses of December.

What: "The Thanksgiving Visitor" and "A Christmas Memory"

When: Through Dec. 21

Where: Riffe Center Studio One, Downtown