By Mark A. Leon
The setting was Christmas Eve 1923 in Wales and Dylan Thomas,accompanied by members of the Chamber orchestra (Chamber Music Charleston),shared stories and songs of the holiday season. At least when we suspended our reality for two brief hours at the North Charleston Coliseum this past Thursday, it felt that way.
As violinist Jenny Blickensderfer Weiss, flutist Regina HelcherYost and cello player Timothy O’Malley took to the stage of a transformed traditional early 20th century home and began to play harmonies of the holidays,Dylan Thomas, played with wit, charm and a whimsical tone by Clarence Felder waited patiently stage right.
The home was garnished with a lavish Christmas tree, coat rake, a small Tiffany lamp and comfortable chairs ordained with shawls made with love from generations past. The setting of a comforting winter snow outside and a warm fireplace set the tone for an evening of reminiscing and reflection.
As the chamber transitioned into a poignant instrumental of ‘Silent Night’, Chris Weatherhead, actress, producer, writer and soul fated love of Clarence, took my arm, leaned in and whispered in my ear, “I’m in love with that man over there.”
I smiled, closed my eyes for a moment and felt the spirit of Christmas race through my body.
For the next 45 minutes Dylan Thomas brought us all back to a period of childhood filled with innocence, joy, love and a little mischief. From candy cigarettes, to rum filled Aunts,silly gifts to odd animals. It was a pleasant escape filled with poetic verse, lovely Christmas tunes and a warmth that can only come from the purest of hearts.
The Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina staged this one of a kind performance of ‘Dylan Thomas’ Christmas in Wales: Dinner and Live Performance’ to a sold out audience of almost 200. From the youngest of children to the young at heart, you could see patrons smile and even sing so softly to the tunes they all knew and loved.
There is a personal piece of one’s self that goes into live theatre. For a short period of team an actor lets themselves be exposed for the greater good of filing a room with relatable and penetrating moments of self-reflection. It is that vulnerability that is the power of theatre and the gift this company has given to Charleston.
In the end though, it was the one sentence from lips to ear, expressing a lifetime of love that truly reminded me of the importance of Christmas, family and most of all, love.