“One Christmas was so much like another,” narrates Geneviève Perrier in Lantern Theater Company’s adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ lush prose poem “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” “I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was 12 or whether it snowed for 12 days and 12 nights when I was six.”
Thomas’ words charm with recollections like this, fogged and frosted by time, but director-designer Sebastienne Mundheim doesn’t make a case for staging them. Perrier — first as an adult woman unpacking a box, then dressed as a lad — does most of the talking, a puzzling choice given that she’s neither Welsh nor a boy. Her clearly girlish American voice clashes with male activities like pelting cats with snowballs and playing with toy soldiers.
Strong physical performers Charlie DelMarcelle, Doug Hara and Amy Smith illustrate the poem’s events using ingenious props with a handmade aesthetic: cardboard houses, a three-person cardboard cat puppet, paper and plastic snow, all sorts of presents, both “useful” (socks, mittens) and “useless” (toys, candy, but “never a catapult!”). These are revealed with a pace-dragging preciousness, dissipating the words’ childlike holiday joy and wonder. The hour-long performance feels too long and not playful, except for brief moments like a dining room scene in which DelMarcelle voices, in grunts and sighs, all the adults.
I vividly recall a National Theatre of the Deaf production decades ago, in which the words — spoken and signed — were paramount, haunting and lovely. Here, they’re diluted by Robert Kaplowitz’s spacey music and the actors’ labors. The result falls in a forgettable void between physical theater and literature.
Through Jan. 5, $30-$38, Lantern Theater Company, 923 Ludlow St., 215-829-0395, lanterntheater.org.
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