By Jeremiah Reardon
A favorite expression of my Irish American mother went, “It’s a wonderful life if you don’t weaken.” A native of Coaldale, Pennsylvania, Genevieve’s family relocated to Millville, New Jersey, to find work during the coal strike of 1902. They rented their home to folks in exchange for making the mortgage payments. Well, you know how that worked out. Fortunately, the bank didn’t foreclose. When the mines reopened in a couple of years, the McGeehan home on E. Phillips Street was saved.
George Bailey’s family in Bedford Falls, New York, encounters a similar dilemma in the 1946 film directed by Frank Capra, It’s A Wonderful Life. Desperate to save the Bailey Brothers Saving and Loan from going under, he contemplates suicide. Genevieve’s family attended Mass and offered prayers to deal with their emergency; in the film, George’s angel intercedes. Prayers by George’s family and friends reached heaven where angel second class Clarence is assigned to save the lost soul and earn his wings.
As George stood on a bridge in contemplation of ending his life, Clarence dives into the river. George heroically responds by diving in and saving him. When George confesses that he wishes he had never been born, Clarence shows George a timeline in Bedford Falls in which he never existed.
Soon, money comes in from unexpected sources and the company is saved. Among the donations George finds a book with a note from Clarence assuring him that no man is a failure who has friends and thanking him for his wings.
All this magic is put on display by the Azuay Community Theater (ACT) for your holiday entertainment. Its adaptation of the beloved film starring James Stewart and Donna Reed has become almost as popular as a stage play as the film has been, being produced all over the United States. The staged radio show format of this play continues ACT’s successful tradition established in December 2021 when their staged radio version of A Christmas Carol played to sold out houses.
Directed by ACT President Paula Bailey, its ensemble cast appears On Air in WACT radio studio. Sound effects recreate the village and household background notes evoking life in the wartime forties. For this holiday production, ACT will unveil two major improvements in its theater on Avenida Ordoñez Lasso.
Audiences will benefit from a greatly improved theatrical lighting system and will enjoy the comfort of new cushioned seats. Founded in 2014, ACT’s 2022-23 season marks some giant steps in the company’s mission of bringing expat professional quality theater to Cuenca in addition to committing to a full season of plays. All performances will be at the company’s theater, one building west of the Oro Verde Hotel.
ACT will launch the production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play with its First Annual VIP Preview on Thursday, December 8. The event will begin with a holiday party at 3 p.m, prior to a 4 p.m. performance of the play.
For $25, each patron will receive a holiday cocktail, delicious hors d’oeuvres from Mother and Son Family Kitchen, the music of Jazz Society regulars, The Ali Agca Trio, in the new lounge decorated for the holidays. A cash bar will be open throughout the party and at intermission.
Regular performances of the production will be Fridays through Sundays from December 9 – 18 at 4 p.m. each day, with the theater opening at 3 p.m. to allow attendees to enjoy a cash bar social hour prior to the show. Tickets for regular performances are $15 and may be ordered online at http://www.actseats.com.