This afternoon, my wife, son, and good family friend Craig took in the performance of The Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. The annual pageant of music, dance, storytelling, and drama focused this year on the pilgrimage along the Camino de Compostela in the Spanish region of Galicia. As a Celtic culture, the Galicians have their own version of the bagpipe called the gaita which featured prominently. Any piece featuring gaita and drums was a highlight for me. The largest drum resonated throughout the house.
The story of this Revels follows Everyman (portrayed by Jay O’Callahan) on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and onwards to the End of the Earth in Finisterre. Elements of Don Quixote are woven into the story as Everyman is knighted and joined on his journey by squire Sancho (Billy Meleady, who starred in last year’s show) and the tavern keeper Angélica (the delightful Angélica Aragón).
Usually the theme of a Revels’ performance is an excuse to tie together song and dance numbers, but this story of a pilgrimage actually maintains a pretty continuous narrative built around set pieces along the Camino, in a tavern, at a monastery, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and finally at Finisterre. The sets and lighting are really remarkable in adapting the stage for the different places along the journey.
Highlights of the show include:
the talent and hard work of the Revels’ children whose performance more than ever is fully-integrated into the show.
the charming line dance when the pilgrims are greeted by the monks to the tune of “Alborada de Ourense.”
O’Callahan telling the story of “The Singing Sack.”
sing-a-long with choreography to “Fum, Fum, Fum.”
puppetry and lights to enact the Galacian version of the posadas ritual.
an amazing bit of stagecraft where a giant censer is swung like a pendulum over the performers on the stage (based on the Botafumeiro at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Jaime Jaffe’s solo performance of “Ondas Do Mar De Vigo.”
a mummers play featuring a mustachioed dragon who performed the hammiest death throes.
There were some disappointments. Jay O’Callahan was hard to understand and I’m not sure if he was mumbling or mic’ed improperly. Sitting in balcony center meant it took a long time to get downstairs to participate in “The Lord of the Dance.” It ended just as we reached the lobby. While I would not rank this among my all time favorite Revels’ performances, it was still delightful and I recommend seeing it if you have the chance. There are four more performances before the show closes on December 27th, so get your tickets now!
“You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.” This quote from The Fault in Our Stars pretty much sums up the book itself. The story tells of Hazel, isolated from normal teen activity due to the debilitating effects of cancer on her lungs, she meets the handsome and charming fellow cancer survivor Augustus at a support group. Their ensuing short friendship and romance is sweet, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at once. A central part of the plot is Hazel’s favorite novel that ends abruptly and Augustus’ plot to use his “Wish” to take her to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author and find out what happens next to the characters in the book. This is a bit of a Macguffin though as the true story is what we read on the page in this truly remarkable work of fiction. This is another example of how some of the best fiction out there today is in the Young Adult section. Favorite Passages:
“And yet still I worried. I liked being a person. I wanted to keep at it. Worry is yet another side effect of dying.”
“The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture.”
“If you don’t live a life in service of a greater good, you’ve gotta at least die a death in service of a greater good, you know? And I fear that I won’t get either a life or a death that means anything.”
“But to be perfectly frank, this childish idea that the author of a novel has some special insight into the characters in the novel…it’s ridiculous. That novel was composed of scratches on a page, dear. The characters inhabiting it have no life outside of those scratches. What happened to them? They all ceased to exist the moment the novel ended.”
“It occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again. That is probably true even if you live to be ninety—although I’m jealous of the people who get to find out for sure.”