Arts and Entertainment

Review | Local thespians bring home the meaning of a beloved and classic film

Laura Erickson and Toby Nichols share a moment onstage during Drama Dock
Laura Erickson and Toby Nichols share a moment onstage during Drama Dock's radio/reader/s theater version of 'It's a Wonderful Life.'
— image credit: Casey Gripp Photo

There really couldn’t be a more perfect play for Drama Dock to share with Islanders than its current production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The show — a radio/reader’s theater version of the famous 1946 holiday classic film starring Jimmy Stewart — was written by many of the same people responsible for the movie’s magic — Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Frank Capra. Uncredited for their work on the script were such literary giants as Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo and Clifford Odets.

The writing sparkles as much on the stage as it does in the movie, and Drama Dock’s minimalist production brings the heartwarming story front and center.

Almost everyone knows the plot — it’s all about George Bailey, a kind-hearted businessman caught in a downward spiral of debt, disillusionment and despair, and how he is saved by a bumbling angel named Clarence Odbody, who after 200 years in heaven still hasn’t earned his wings.

It’s also the story of a small town, Bedford Falls, that really seems a lot like a certain small island in Puget Sound. Much like Vashon, Bedford Falls is a place  where everybody knows everybody, and everyone is dependent on everyone else. Life is a tapestry in small towns like ours, and if one thread starts to unravel, we’re all in trouble.

The way that the cast list of Drama Dock’s production shines a light on this essential truth is what makes the show so special. It’s the reason you should go to the play.

We know a lot of the amateur actors up on the stage, and we’re familiar with the ways they have contributed to our community and made it a better place. There’s Toby Nichols, a busy pilot who also makes time to serve as a substitute paraeducator in our schools, in the starring role, as George.

There’s Jill Bulow, who helps save lives as a paramedic, cast as George’s wife, Mary. And there’s her lovely daughter, Maya Krah — a teenager many of us have cheered on as both a powerful rower and effervescent young thespian — cast perfectly as a younger version of her mother’s role.

Max Lopuszynski —  a talented young man many Island theatre-goers have watched grow up on Vashon stages, enveloped in the warm embrace of the close knit Island theater community — has the juicy role of Young George.

Kirk Beeler, who by day toils for a software company and by night has served on Drama Dock’s board of directors, plays a bunch of small roles with panache, most notably George’s hapless Uncle Billy.

And a Drama Dock newcomer, Lois Watson, sparkles in the role of the angel Joseph. It should be obvious to audience members that she has professional experience in theater, but her non-theater resume is also impressive: she’s a retired program manager for Seattle and King County’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s obvious: These actors lives are a testament to the same values that illuminate the play. Even the show’s director, Elise Morrill, helps people by day at her job at Vashon Youth & Family Services.

Gordon Millar, who has helped coordinate McMurray Middle School’s Math Is Cool program, has a chance here to chew the scenery as the show’s only villain, Mr. Potter.

A vulture capitalist and criminal who divides the world into “makers and takers,” Potter reminds us of more recent Wall Street baddies, and perhaps a congressman or two, and when he gets his comeuppance at the end of the play, who wouldn’t feel like cheering?

But perhaps the most touching relationship in the play is the obviously loving one between the show’s most adorable performer, little Laura Erickson, who plays Zuzu Bailey, and Gregg Ericksen, her dad, who plays the angel Clarence. Although the two never act a scene together, they sit next to each other on the stage, and when you see them exchange a quick glance — well, there it is:  All the love and compassion and deep meaning that exists in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is encapsulated in their smiles.

 

The show’s performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26, 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. Dec. 30, at the Blue Heron. Tickets, $7.50 to $20, are on sale at the Blue Heron, the Vashon Bookshop and online at www.vashonalliedarts.org.

 

 

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