presented by Stoneham Theatre
adapted for the stage and directed by Weylin Symes
Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook
(Stoneham) In an interview in Time Magazine, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar once quipped that every mistake he made in his first film became his signature “style” in subsequent ones. The holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t stand the test of time because it is perfect, but because of its many flaws. It is a holiday redemption story told by director Frank Capra at his most moody, and one can see why it bombed in its inaugural run at the movie houses. The script moves in a disjointed style, with a biblical fable serving as tacked-on bookends to a dark meditation on inequality in America. If not for Capra’s bold and technically-accomplished direction and the performance of a lifetime by Jimmy Stewart, the movie would be a laugher by now.
Stoneham Theatre’s staging of Weylin Symes’ theatrical adaption of Capra’s screenplay may have seemed like a safe end-of-year choice, and crowds have come in droves to see the spirited production, but this is as difficult a script as some of Shakespeare’s obscure works, and director Caitlin Lowans fails to navigate this production around many pitfalls. If not for Mark Linehan’s heart-on-sleeve performance as the desperate George Bailey and near-universal knowledge of the iconic storyline, this staging would have derailed. Continue reading