A Cut Above the Rest – A review of “The Gift of the Magi”

By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant

It’s Christmas time in the early 1900’s on New York’s east side. Della (Becky Brown) and her husband, Jim (Joshua Mooiweer) are in their $8.00 a week flat discussing their dire financial situation in the opening moments of “The Gift of the Magi.”

Della and Jim have been married for 171 days (as Della has happily recorded in her journal). Jim’s salary as an accounts clerk has just been reduced. As Della helps Jim remove his shoes she sees that they are lined with newspaper to help keep out the cold.

Neither of the newlyweds has enough money to buy the other a Christmas gift. However, they both sacrificed something dear to ensure their partner has a happy holiday. Della sells her hair, and Jim sells his prized watch. But the gifts they purchased in exchange for their sacrifices are no longer appropriate (a platinum chain for a non-existent watch and two hair combs for lengthy hair no longer there).

What is wealth? Della and Jim realize that it’s not an abundance of physical possessions, but the abundance of the love that’s really important.

“The Gift of the Magi” was adapted by Jon Jory from the story by O. Henry.

Brown and Mooiweer were excellent in their portrayal of the young impoverished couple – a well-balanced team.

All other actors in “Magi” with the exception of Brown and Mooiweer played multiple parts. There were noteworthy performances by Davion Heron (as the Watch Clerk) and Blake Doyle (as Madame Vodskaya). Doyle’s comedic skills were on point.

Throughout the play the narrator (Somerset Young), and a chorus of carolers sing and dance providing informative narrative and musical interludes on a simple, yet effective set.

Love and sacrifice are themes that are as relevant today as they were yesterday. As the author O. Henry once wrote, “But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest.”

– CDM

“The Gift of the Magi” runs until December 17, 2017 at The Pittsburgh Playhouse – Conservatory Theatre Company, 222 Craft Avenue, Pittsburgh PA.15213.   For more information, click here.

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