Born, live, die. This is the cycle that all human beings undergo. How the age is filled is decided by the individual. But rituals, behavior and ways of thinking are often passed down from generation to generation in families.
Thornton Wilder’s play “The Long Christmas Dinner” is about this. Big band Ra-Runzel impressed the audience with the thoughtful piece and received much applause for the performance.
After a two-year break with Corona, prominent actresses dared to take their first steps on stage again this weekend. “We’re glad you brought the humor with you to see a play at Christmas after Easter,” director Waltrud Rush said with a smile.
The pandemic has fooled everyone in the theater. After the ridiculous play “Die Verspätung” by Wolfgang Hildesheimer was shown only twice in fall 2020, the band has now dared to start a new play this year.
It is played from 1840 to 1930
American writer Thornton Wilder, who won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1927 for The St. Louis Ray Bridge, wrote The Long Christmas Dinner Four Years Later, a series of one-act plays for the Bayard family. Merchants always lived in the same situation from 1840 to 1930. Family members gather around the festively set table in the family home’s living room for Christmas dinner.
Four generations follow each other. Mother Bayard is the eldest of the group. She still remembers the time when the Indians lived in the area and had to cross the Mississippi River on a self-made raft because there was no bridge yet. In the following years, the family lives the joy that newborn babies bring to life, but also experiences the pain of the death of loved ones.
But much remains the same: memories of the beginning of the blossoming that arose, conversations about the cold winter weather, the magic of ripening that covers the branches. The great sermon then the list. Family members choose “something white from the breast” or something “from the brown”. There are sentences such as: “You don’t find a child like that every day – how fast that happens.” , “Yes, in the past, those were fixed times.” The piece makes you smile and grabs your attention. That family, that’s what we could be, at least in part.
With delicate facial expressions
Thornton Wilder performs in minimalist style on stage. The calmness and uniformity of the dialogues and actions were surprising at first. But gradually the display of smaller changes intensifies. Thus births and deaths become the great emotional moments of the play for the viewer as well.
The subtle changes in the minds of the Bayard family members, who had been subjected to some emotional outburst over many years and had often shown constant friendliness and kindness, were brought to the stage by the seven actresses with delicate facial expressions.
family break up
But in the last generation, the family disintegrated. The son dies in the war, the daughter marries and moves away. The youngest rebel against the gloom and boredom of a small town. The house is run by a distant relative in the belief that all will be well.
Through his play, Thornton Wilder shows the transience of life and yet he wraps it in a loving veil. With their courage to stand on stage at such an advanced age, the seven women gave the subject a special allure.