Review: Debra Rich Gettleman’s ‘Twist of The Magi’ a winner at The Phoenix Theatre

Debra Rich Gettleman, the talent behind “Twist of The Magi” an updated and clever take on O’Henry’s classic tale, “Gift of The Magi”

The hilarity of any production of The Phoenix Theatre (“comedy without all the drama”) begins well before Act One, Scene One – as fans of Edmonds’ funniest theatre will attest.

This past Saturday night at Edmonds’ Firdale Village comedy hot spot was no exception as the Phoenix troupe raised the curtain on playwright Debra Gettleman’s Twist of The Magi.

A few moments after the curtain call, tall, lanky assistant house manager Levi Gettleman sauntered onto the stage. He was possessively clutching a ridiculously over-sized Teddy Bear, which he used as a prop to hawk the theatre’s many benefits for becoming a season ticket holder.

With impeccable delivery, Gettleman shifts from one foot to the other, clasps Teddy, and continues his spiel. The audience laughs appreciatively, and he nails it on endearing the crowd. A true thespian!

In the background, during Gettleman’s turn-off-your-cell-phone annotations, audience members are slightly distracted by the hurry-scurry to and fro of “stage manager” Sarah McGrath. Think “chicken-with-its–head-cut-off” – as McGrath readies the “radio studio” set for its forthcoming show. If you need frantic to appear fun – call to the stage Sarah McGrath, ala Carol Burnett on amphetamines.

One by one, the characters of this 1947-era broadcast make their way into the studio of KTPT Radio – several stumbling, one couple in elevated disharmony, all typifying exaggerated pathos of talent and art.

Nonplussed by all of this activity, placed downstage, is the sugarplum of The Phoenix – Melanie Calderwood – who plays “Betsy,” the sound effects technician for the radio show. As Scene One commences, Calderwood and McGrath are joined on stage by talents Scott Hibbert, playing Rex/the Announcer; James Lynch as Jim; Alissa Cattabriga as Della/Lauren; Phoenix veteran Steve Heiret playing both Mr. Marcetti and Mr. Mandelbread and Nicola Amos, playing Mrs. Marcetti and Mrs. Madam Sofronie.

Award-winning Susan Connors plays dual roles Denise and Mrs. Mandelbread – plus manages the productions’ set dressing and costumes!

Denise Wechsler plays the parts of Stella and Mrs. Matisse.

The talent trio of the vintage variety show is comprised of Darian Conn, Sophia Parker and Mia Perritt. Oh, the pipes of this trio!

Congratulations to director Keith Dahlgren on his casting selections. The production is a fine mix of veterans and newbies to The Phoenix Theatre.

Regarding his directing of this production, Dahlgrens states in the program: “I think I was born slightly out of my time, because I love old movies; really old, like pre-1960 (reviewers’ note: “Ouchies!!”)

“Radio broadcasts from the 1940s were special. Combine that with the magic of the holiday season, and you really have something worth listening to.

“But these folks were real. . . real people with real problems. We have combined all of that into a lovely little n-stage radio presentation for you to enjoy this holiday season.”

There are almost too many “Shout Outs!” to mention – this is a well-directed production of talented actors, known for their outstanding work in the Puget Sound. But . . . here goes:

No one plays a stumbling drunk like Denise Wechsler! Hailing originally from New York! New York! this reviewer was surprised that Ms. Wechsler’s performance as the late-arriving Mrs. Matisse in Act Two didn’t garner applause. It should have. So pay attention second-weekend audience – here’s your opportunity!

Melanie Calderwood, artistic director and founding force behind The Phoenix Theatre, has much to be proud of this 10th anniversary season. As per usual, Calderwood is the best flop (onto!) the stage that a theatre troupe could ask for. Warmest congratulations to Ms. Calderwood for her foresight in plucking “The End of the World Theatre” from the ashes and giving rise to The Phoenix Theatre.

Lining up next for a My Edmonds News shout-out is Steve Heiret, who always plays the naturally funny – Steve Heiret. He’s charming, he’s earnest; he is totally lovable – as the two husbands, Mr. Marcetti and Mr. Mandelbread.

This reviewer’s Fave Heiret role was as “Steve” in Becky’s New Car but this actor, for whom character parts are a natural, has been seen in many local productions; including Moon Over Buffalo, And Then There Were None, The Nerd (with both Edmonds Driftwood Players and The Phoenix Theatre). Watch-List Star!

The heartiest congratulations, however, go to the imaginative force behind Twist of the Magi: Debra Gettleman. Already having received high praise for Twist from The Arizona Republic, during its premier, Gettleman deserves a standing ovation for this imaginative and updated portrayal of O’Henry’s classic Christmas tale, Gift of The Magi.

This reviewer offers a standing ovation to the playwright, the director, the cast and crew of Twist of the Magi! Break a leg, Phoenix troupe – you’ve got a winner.

– – –

If Debra Rich Gettleman is the playwright, sit up and take notice!

The Phoenix Theatre

9673 Firdale Ave. ~ Upper level of Firdale Shopping Plaza


Twist of The Magi plays through Dec. 23

Synopsis from The Playbill: 

Twist of the Magi is based on O’Henry’s classic short story, Gift of the Magi. This updated version is set in an authentic 1940s radio station as a live, on-air broadcast, adding a slew of disgruntled actors, their reticent stage manager, a frantic sound effects technician, a whacky female musical trio, a delinquent (and inebriated) Shakespearean prima donna; a jealous Italian femme fatale and a host of other broadcasting eccentrics. This classic tale of holiday love and generosity unfolds through a series of comic twists and turns as O’Henry’s heroine, Della, trades her beautiful hair to buy a Christmas gift for her devoted husband.

Tortured by seller’s remorse, Della befriends an unlikely Yiddish Yenta, and the two women embark on a series of zany adventures to attempt to recover the lost locks.

Sell Out Alert!

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