More Tales of O. Henry | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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More Tales of O. Henry

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MORE TALES OF O. HENRY, Transient Theatre. "Every city has a voice," said William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry; he himself recorded the voices of New York City at the turn of the century in over 300 stories, 4 of which have been adapted by Steve Tanner for Transient Theatre: A young man takes a job as a costumed mannequin in a German restaurant. A homeless person attempts to secure winter lodgings in prison. A woman of letters is alternately frustrated and charmed by her secretary's editorial suggestions. And two out-of-pocket newlyweds surrender their most precious possessions to purchase Christmas presents for each other.

The key to the success of this story-theater-style presentation, narrated mostly in the third person, is timing: last year Transient's first experiment with O. Henry was marred by sluggishness, which would have been more debilitating with the humorous tales selected here--even "The Gift of the Magi" has been stripped of much of its sentimentality to bring out the ridiculous side of the impulsive lovers' sacrifices. Tanner, directing a seven-member ensemble who play 20 characters, keeps up a sprinter's pace throughout: these actors pick up their cues with the deft agility of relay runners passing the baton. Such tight teamwork makes citing individual performances difficult, but Tom Daniel displays a Jimmy Durante innocence as the hapless hobo seeking detention, Irene White makes a feisty restaurateur, and as the passionate novelist, Deborah Dwyer does a skillful slow burn without breaking verbal stride. Overseeing it all is George Tafelski, who has composed the score and plays the role of O. Henry, a cordial host for an evening of finely crafted theater.

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