It’s just before Christmas of 1947. There’s a radio in every home and folks are gathered around, avidly listening. A few special sound effects are heard and the announcer speaks into the microphone. He’s Edward P. Mitchell, the newspaper man (aka David Wheater), and he has a tale to relate of a young girl who questions whether there really is a jolly fat man who brings presents to her family.
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (by Andrew J. Fenady) is the third annual dramatic reading of a radio play from the Knights of Columbus productions, and they will give two performances at the Heritage Playhouse this Saturday, Dec. 14. Director David Short has been working to resurrect the feelings of family and community epitomized by the 1940s radio plays. Studio audiences back then were regaled by an experience of actors producing the voices that eventually were heard “on air,” complete with sound effects.
In this case the Gregorchuk family and Sheila Tsuji provide clip clops, doorbells and other sounds from their desk, visible to the theatre audience, while Marie Frewin stage manages and plays keyboard. The characters perform in costume, but read from a script.
The story revolves around an unemployed Irish immigrant James O’Hanlon (Christian Obeck) and his ever-optimistic wife (Susan Rule) barely making ends meet in an anti-Irish New York. Their daughter Virginia (Hana Ingram) is friends with another family who are also struggling for survival.
“If you read it in the Sun, it’s so,” O’Hanlon tells his daughter.
“Could your newspaper tell me if Santa is real?” Virginia asks.
The answer is forthcoming, but not without the involvement of two reporters — one is an embittered widower (Pat Dorval) and the other is a woman trying to succeed in a man’s world of newspapers (Suzanne Doyle-Ingram).
There are experienced actors in this group who play several different parts and some have the ability to imitate accents.
Richard Austin speaks by turns in German, Irish and snooty English accents. Ingrid Bilton captures Mrs. Goldstein’s Jewish accent perfectly.
The funnier moments in this delightful play come when the cast reproduces the commercials of the 1940s. Local business sponsors are thanked by the actors in the hilarious verbiage of the over-embellished ads of the time.
As a fundraiser for the Knights of Columbus’ charitable work on the Sunshine Coast, the nominal $10 admission fee allows all families to participate. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Gaia’s Fair Trade and Laedeli in Gibsons.