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A Thornton Wilder Christmas review at Kings Head London

Two early plays under 30 minutes long by Thornton Wilder are of great historical interest, both for inventing new theatrical vocabularies and for serving as preliminary exercises for major works to follow.

Like Our Town, The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden uses a bare stage and minimal props to create a reality, as in the course of a family’s short car trip across New Jersey they encounter a friendly stranger, a simple meal, a birth, two deaths, the power of religion, the temptations of consumerism and the strength and limits of familial love.

The Long Christmas Dinner anticipates The Skin Of Our Teeth in toying with theatrical time, as a single dinner encompasses more than 50 years. The birth of a baby is mentioned and a few moments later that young adult takes a chair, while older family members excuse themselves from the table and depart. Four generations take their turn at the table while both the world outside and the dynamics of the family undergo inevitable changes.

Tim Sullivan’s production, a little tentative in the first play, captures all the resonances of the second, though an evening in which the interval is almost as long as each act would have been more satisfying with a third Wilder one-act added.

Production Information

King’s Head, London, December 11-January 5

Author
Thornton Wilder
Director
Tim Sullivan
Producer
Saviour, King’s Head Theatre
Cast includes Stephanie Beattie, David Gerits, Rosy Benjamin, Simon Dobson
Running time
1hr 15mins

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