Theater Review: The holidays begin with Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

The turkey has been carved, and the leftovers are gone. Time to hang the wreaths and light the candles.

Pec Playhouse, in its 20th year, continues to offer the community an enjoyable theater experience in Pecatonica, Ill. Many of the company have been with Pec Playhouse since its beginnings and serve in every capacity from constructing stage sets to taking the lead in a serious drama.

Yes, Virginia… was originally staged in the 2004 season. Bill Beard and Mark Kaan were still a part of the company, and Beard’s spectacular set has been recreated for this production. The multiple scenes require constant changes to bring us the New York of the late 1800s. Every aspect of the city is there. Set Designer Arnie Ames thanks Bill Beard for his original set design for this production in 2004, and his encouragement and mentoring through the years.

Patrick Barkdoll is Edward P. Mitchell, editor of the New York Sun, who narrates. His explicit description of each character and their importance to the plot gives the play—with its 46 scenes—continuity.

Emily Ann Freiburger is Virginia O’Hanlon, whose family has fallen on hard times, much as our economy today, and as Christmas approaches, her question must be answered. It is Glen Wiegert as a grieving widower, Frank Church, who sees the positives that exist and is able to overcome his personal tragedy to enlighten every child with his “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.”

There are many familiar faces and a few new ones. Brian Brooks makes his first appearance here as James O’Hanlon, a down-on-his-luck Irish immigrant. Penny Wiegert directs. She helped found Byron Civic Theatre, and her years of experience are evident. The Irish, Italian, Bronx accents are extremely well done, a difficult goal to achieve. Natasha Jackson also makes her debut as Andrea Borland, a writer at the Sun striving to be recognized as a professional in the world of men.

Yes, Virginia… plays through Dec. 5. At 7 p.m., Dec. 11, Pec Playhouse Theatre will present Christmas at Pec Playhouse. This will be a special evening of music and skits. No tickets are sold for this event; admission will be a donation of food goods. For further information for Virginia and the Christmas show, call (815) 239-1210.

From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue

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