The magical, the magnificent, The Magi. This play, wrapped in a concert, is a wonderfully performed piece that showcases the best of theatre: Storytelling. Drama. Humor. Song, along with guitars, violin, and a kazoo.
It’s also a non-traditional holiday offering focused on the magic of romantic love instead of the familial kind. The Magi is a folk-y, touring singing duo and a couple very much in love playing at the local pub, O’Henry’s.
They are also at odds on the next step of the relationship, which for Nixon (Rex Daugherty) includes a house and some roots with a kid. For Judevine (Daven Ralston) it means more life on the road, touring and singing. Singing and touring. It’s a bit of a gender role reversal, and its solution involves one of them sacrificing a life a plan for the love of the other.
As they play, they engage in the typical, witty banter found between songs at the best club concerts, except maybe theirs is a little more revealing. Soon, the banter between songs gives way to monologues, as both Nixon and Judevine take turns stepping from the musical stage to the dramatic one to tell you their relationship anxieties and back stories. The funny way they met. Their immediate families. The strange idiosyncrasies they each bring to coupledom. And, of course, the breezy chitchat of a musical gig and drama-esque monologues eventually collide so that their relationship woes are playing out between them, in front of you, on both stages.
It sounds complicated, but it’s actually so simple you’ll be ashamed you didn’t think of it first. Audiences are a valuable part of concerts, whose presentation is only as good as the interaction between singer and listener. Here, Jude and Nix invite you into their lives through their autobiographical music but move easily into story, taking you with them as they tear down the wall between concert and play. Between actor and audience. The Magi embodies the best of live music and pushes theatre’s boundaries.
closes December 18, 2016
Details and tickets
Daugherty and Ralston have a natural onstage rapport that makes their relationship real and relatable, even the tough parts they unload on you bit by bit between and in songs, which are rich, acoustic numbers accentuated by melodic voices. In the opening track, “Foolish Minds,” they sing that they “know love is sudden, but you were more than a surprise,” and as the show progresses, you get the sense that they are still surprising each other. Monotony, complacency, the day-to-day of routine haven’t overtaken their relationship, which is one thing Judevine fears really settling down. But, Nixon’s sweet “Judevine,” an ode to his lady on a ukulele, proves that he’s been paying attention and asks her to just try it out and give it some time.
In the full spirit of the show, there is an opening act—On opening weekend, Eli Pafumi who wrote all the music, was a nice appetizer that lights the mood as if it were any night at a café or classically atmospheric pub strung with Christmas bulbs. His earthy music—a bit bluesy, a bit folky, a bit alternative country—is sublime if you go for that. If not, we can’t be friends.
The play was written by Helen Murray Pafumi, Eli’s mom, and The Hub Theatre’s Artistic Director. She has given O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi” one of the best contemporary Christmas re-imaginings this century. The dialogue is sharp and funny and so quick you’d never know, as Judevine and Nixon cut each other off, or complete each other’s sentences while they talk about a deer encounter, that the whole tale is scripted. And rehearsed. That’s a product of fine writing, excellent acting, and stellar directing, done by Kelsey Mesa in this case.
The Magi’s sweetness provides a refreshing break from darker toned Christmas tales about craggy, rich misers and weirdly colored, odd-looking jerks with tiny hearts. If you’ve already had enough of those this year, The Magi is for you. So, if you like spending your Friday evenings at a bar, drinking and listening to music, make this trek instead. You’ll get that and much more: a reminder that love is love is love, which takes a dash of compassion and a dose of compromise to endure. And, Christmas (or Hanukah or Kwanza) is a great time recommit to both.
The Magi by Helen Murray Pafumi . Music and Lyrics by Eli Pafumi . Directed by Kelsey Mesa. Featuring Rex Daugherty and Daven Ralston. Scenic Design: Jonathan Dahm Robertson . Lighting Design; John D. Alexander . Associate Producer: Quill Nebeker . Stage Manager: Curt Gavin . Presented by the Hub Theatre. Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.
Coming early for The Magi’s opening acts.
Here’s the remaining schedule:
Dec. 9 Erin Weston,
Dec. 10 evening Ari Jacobson
Dec. 11 evening Ricky Drummond
Dec. 16 Rebecca Speas
Dec. 17 evening Ari Jacobson
Dec. 18 matinee Eli Pafumi