“Appalachian Christmas Homecoming” at Taproot Theatre

The Christmas season is a time for nostalgia—not just for savoring the memories of one’s own youth, but for remembering bygone days before the computer ruled our lives, when, we like to believe, life was sweeter and families didn’t need 60-inch TVs to find their holiday fun. “Appalachian Christmas Homecoming,” directed by Scott Nolte, takes us back.

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Melissa Maricich, Simon Pringle, Theresa Holmes, Mark Tyler Miller and Edd Key in Appalachian Christmas Homecoming. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Grandpa (Edd Key) and Grandma (Theresa Holmes) have rented the dilapidated Grange Hall in their Appalachian hollow. They and their teen-aged daughter (Melissa Maricich) lay out the covered dishes along with their acoustic guitars, banjoes, mandolins, other stringed instruments, and even a set of spoons and then settle down for an old-fashioned hoedown. This is all seen through the eyes of their grandson (Simon Pringle) as he remembers what was and what he’s been told about those good old days.

He remembers the stories about Grandpa’s disapproval of Michael (Mark Tyler Miller) the man who would become his father. How Grandpa didn’t want Michael there on one of those pre-Christmas nights. But most of all he remembers the music, and that’s what this production is all about—the music.

It’s especially satisfying to hear the selection of regional Christmas music that the cast mixes with the carols we know so well. Skillful playing, spirited dancing, and heartwarming singing make this a musical treat.

Theresa Holmes in a dress Ma Joad might have worn exudes common good sense and purposefulness. She knows how to keep her judgmental husband in line. Edd Key as that husband is not only a masterful musician but also a fine actor. Watch him hitch up his pants in grumpy disapproval of that handsome young fella’ who’s sweet on his daughter. Watch his mouth betray his irritation, no words needed. The entire cast is good.

The only weakness here is the beginning of the play itself. It took me some time to realize that this was all a flashback and not the return of the Prodigal Son. But now I’ve told you that, so you shouldn’t have any problem at all.

Through Dec. 27, at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org/buy-tickets/).

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