American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
By Rob Thomas | November 29 | The Capital Times
Warning: 106-year-old spoiler alert ahead. I don’t think I really got the twist ending of O. Henry’s classic 1905 Christmas short story “The Gift of the Magi.”
I mean, I understand the irony of a husband selling his watch to buy his wife a comb for Christmas, while the wife has sold her hair to buy her husband a watch fob. But what was the meaning of it, other than maybe you should plan out your gift giving a little better? Why were these foolish lovers compared to the Three Wise Men?
I get it now, thanks to American Players Theatre’s marvelous production of “Gift of the Magi,” adapted into a musical for the stage by James DeVita and Josh Schmidt and directed by Malkia Stampley. This revival, running through Dec. 19 in the Touchstone Theatre as well as online (Dec. 6-19), retains every ounce of the slender story’s original charm while broadening and deepening its themes. O. Henry (as played by Brian Mani) calls the story a “modest gift,” reinforcing the well-worn notion that sometimes the best things come in small packages.
That gift is especially welcome at the end of a 2021 season which saw APT return to live performance after being sidelined by the pandemic for 2020. “It’s such a simple thing to gather together,” Mani says to the audience at the start of the performance. “And yet, it is everything, isn’t it?” He then conducts the audience in singing the last line of “Joy to the World,” (“let earth receive her king”), a magical act of fellowship to open the show.