Instead of a play, watching The Little Match Girl Passion and listening to a dramatic reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales beforehand felt more like viewing two paintings in a gallery, as both captured different images of the holiday season by giving just a quick look at a few moments in two characters’ lives.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas and read by Paul Shapiro (who I confess was my high school theater director!), is an old man’s memories of snow, family, and mischief from the Christmases of his childhood, and contrasts sharply both in style and content with The Little Match Girl Passion, a sort of ballet of an impoverished child freezing on the streets on New Year’s Eve. The four voices of John Coons, Lisa Mandelkorn, Randy Scholtz, and Jenny Shotwell blend with dancing by Megan Sandico and Ulyber Mangune to produce a very cohesive, truly beautiful work of art. The sound of chimes and the dancers’ grace make for an ethereal production, that perhaps doesn’t pull at the heartstrings quite as strongly as I might have expected, but nevertheless produces a lovely sensory experience.
The use of both traditional and modern techniques in The Little Match Girl Passion, both in dance and song, make this an interesting piece that merges operatic four-part harmonies with one-word repetition reminiscent of hip-hop, and classical dance with modern choreography. The juxtaposition of the little girl’s sufferings with idyllic stories from the old Welshman helps to deepen the tale’s poignancy, and leaves the audience with some food for thought on family, gratitude, and the spirit of Christmas. There are only two more performances scheduled, so act quickly if you don’t want to miss it.
ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery present The Little Match Girl Passion, by David Lang, choreographed by UJ Mangune at 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, WA, 98116. Dec. 11, 12, 19, and 22. Tickets: Artswest.org