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Open: 12/06/12- Close: 12/23/12 It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Reviewed for By: Brianna Essland

A lovely thrust stage.  A warm, inviting lobby complete with a decked-out Christmas tree.  An indubitably professional cast and crew.  Where in the city is this theatre space?  Well, not in the city at all actually.  For the delights and charms in Mile Square Theatre’s It’s a Wonderful Life – a live radio play – you’ll have to NJTransit it to Hoboken.  And the trip is well worth it, especially around the holiday season.

Resourcefully directed by Marykate Burke and featuring a perfectly cast group of actors, Life is that classic Second-Chance story we all know -- and most of us love, although we all have that one friend who hates that the film takes over cable this time of year.  To be safe, let’s catch everyone (who’s lived in a box) up on the plot.  George Bailey is an everyman who has resigned to life, shuffling through what he believes to be a tedious existence working at the Building and Loan Association.  He just about goes over the edge but is given an opportunity by his guardian angel Clarence Oddbody to witness how his community is affected had he never been born.

Because this is presented as a live radio show, the actors are forced to tackle numerous roles and to fully develop their characters using mainly their voices.  And they all do.  In particular, Martin Landry seems to come straight from the 1940s as the overly generous George.  The breakdown sequence is tragic in the sense that it’s been building up inside Landry’s George for years and years.  Landry is spot-on in both dramatic material like that, or the play’s lighter faire (i.e. an adorable but complicated romance with Mary Hatch, played with sweet sophistication by Eliza Simpson).  Whitney Brown displays true versatility, nailing both a young beauty named Violet and worried mother Rose Bailey.

I enjoyed the creativity involved in generating the sound effects of the radio show, like the gargling of water to represent a child nearly drowning.  I did think the ensemble could have gone further with the inter-recording-studio drama amongst the “actors.”  There are at times vague gestures, like a push or a thumbs-up, but they never reveal juicy insight regarding the alliances or non-alliances amongst the cast members.

It’s a small quibble in a show that succeeds on so many levels, the most important level being: it made me think about my own life.  It made me think about how often I get stressed, anxious and neurotic… and how little I stop to think about what I do have, the people I love and who love me, the things I should be grateful for.  “No man is a failure who has friends,” Clarence Oddbody tells George Bailey.  Truer words have never been spoken.  So grab one of them and see this charmer in Hoboken.


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