As a reviewer, I get to see a lot of holiday-themed shows. Some are schmaltzy, some are sappy, and some are stale. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Fruitcakes! by Julian Wiles, was none of these things. The show, running Friday-Sunday through Dec. 22nd at the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, exceeded my expectations at every turn.
Fruitcakes! is a story about several residents of a small South Carolina town in the days leading up to Christmas. Their “normal” routine is far from normal, but is further impacted by an unexpected visitor.
Much of the action takes place at a barn and lot where Mack (Craig Johnson) sells Christmas trees and a variety of country crafts. Johnson gives a strong and very believable performance as a grandfather looking out for the newcomer, Jamie.
Andrew Farmer plays Jamie, a young teen, and is quite frankly marvelous in the role. He is in a large number of the scenes and handled his lines in a commanding and expressive manner. The remainder of the cast includes a group of adults displaying a variety of small-town quirks who deftly pass through the scenes and a group of children preparing for the town Christmas pageant.
All of the performances were solid, but I was most impressed with the kids. Somehow, director Judy M. Dove was able to have each of these children completely prepared, not only with regard to their lines, but with their timing and hitting their marks as well. The scenery was not complex, but quite effective; and the transitions were seamless.
I frequently encourage people to take their children to local theater. This is a good example as to why. The story is simple enough for kids to understand, but deep enough to make them think. You will absolutely be able to discuss the story over dinner the next day. Also, the kids will get to see their peers performing in a high-quality troupe, which may encourage them to try experiencing theater for themselves.
Mostly, I found the story to be well paced and well written. This play has a Southern sensibility rather than poking fun at the culture. Mostly, the story never loses its heart. Go see it, and bring your kids!
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents FRUITCAKES! at 8 p.m. Dec. 7, 3 p.m. Dec. 8, 8 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14, 3 p.m. Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21, and 3 p.m. Dec. 22 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Food Lion Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $22 ($20 students, teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $15 per ticket on Sunday, Dec. 8th.
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, email@example.com, or https://nract.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://www.nract.org/shows#/fruitcakes/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/463124044334498/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
Robert O’Connell is new to the Triangle, but not to the stage. As a playwright, he has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has an MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.