Kylara Pankow (Della/Lauren) and James Lynch (Jim/Freddie) star in Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Twist of the Magi,” showing through Dec. 23 in Edmonds. (Photo by James Sipes)

Kylara Pankow (Della/Lauren) and James Lynch (Jim/Freddie) star in Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Twist of the Magi,” showing through Dec. 23 in Edmonds. (Photo by James Sipes)

Holiday hit ‘Twist of the Magi’ is back by popular demand

The parody of O. Henry’s 1905 story is presented by Phoenix Theatre in Edmonds.

EDMONDS — Phoenix Theatre found a surprise holiday hit last year in “Twist of the Magi.”

The farce, based on O. Henry’s short story “Gift of the Magi,” was by far the most popular offering at the Edmonds comedy theater. So the show is back on stage for a second year in a row.

“It was one of the most popular shows they’ve ever had there,” Director Shileah Corey said. “It was nearly sold out, if not completely sold out last year. Since audiences loved it so much, they decided to reprise it this year.”

“Gift of the Magi,” written in 1905, tells of a young couple, Della and Jim, who are short on money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. The story’s premise has been retold and parodied countless times.

Della secretly sells her most valuable possession, her hair, to buy a platinum chain for her husband’s watch, while Jim, also in secret, sells his most valuable possession, his watch, to buy jewelled combs for his wife’s hair. The irony is both of their gifts are now useless.

Debra Rich Gettleman, the theater’s former managing director, wrote this parody in 2014. It is set in a 1940s radio studio and is performed as an on-air broadcast.

Gettleman adds a host of broadcasting eccentrics to the classic story, including an Andrews Sisters-like trio called the Twisted Sisters, who sing Christmas carols and parody ’40s commercials.

“It’s such a classic Christmas tale, and it represents something much bigger than just Christmas,” Gettleman said. “It’s about undying love, it’s about appreciation and it’s about the irony of giving things up for someone you love. I love the message of the story. I’ve always loved it — since I was a little kid.

“But then I like to write a screwball farce, so I (asked myself), ‘OK, how am I going to mess this up?’ ”

The “Twist of the Magi” is a play within a play. Kylara Pankow and James Lynch portray classic characters Della and Jim on the radio show, but they’re also playing “real-life” couple Lauren and Freddie off the air.

“In ‘real life,’ there’s a man and a woman whose lives are mirroring what’s happening in the radio play,” Corey said. “It’s a cute story with a twist at the end that’s really, really fun.”

O. Henry’s stories are known for their plot-twist endings, and this farcical comedy also sports some twists and turns.

In true Phoenix fashion — it’s a comedy-only theater, after all — Gettleman’s Della, tortured by seller’s remorse after chopping off her hair, tries to recover her lost locks.

Whether you travel back in time to the 1900s or 1940s, both stories leave you with the happy realization that it’s the thought behind the gift that counts.

And, along with that heartfelt message, expect to laugh. As a playwright, Gettleman likes her audiences to leave happier than they were when they got there.

The funniest character of them all, according to Gettleman, is the sound technician, Betsey, played by Melanie Calderwood, who is the theater’s artistic director.

“The best part is we have the sound effects lady on stage the whole show, and she’s a bumbling mess of a character,” Gettleman said. “She’s always dropping things and playing the wrong sound effect. She is laugh-out-loud funny.”

If you go

What: Phoenix Theatre’s “Twist of the Magi”

When: Through Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, with Saturday matinees Dec. 15 and Dec. 22

Where: The Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave., Edmonds

Tickets: $25 adults; $20 seniors, students and military; $12 children

More: 206-533-2000 or www.tptedmonds.org

Talk to us

More in Life

Caption: If you can get past the itchiness factor, wool garments warm you up and last a lifetime. (Jennifer Bardsley)
In praise of wool, the fiber that saved this California girl

It may itch, but you can’t beat a wool sweater for warmth. And it’ll last a lifetime.

Weather, rain, geraniums: A gardener gives thanks

Take a minute and reflect on what you are grateful for in your garden, and then share the gratitude with your fellow gardeners.

The towering Basilica of Our Lady of Fátima sits at the head of a vast esplanade. At the top of the steps, a covered open-air altar, cathedra (bishop's chair), and pulpit stand ready to conduct Mass to the thousands of pilgrims who come to celebrate the Virgin of Fátima on the 13th day of each month from May through October.
Rick Steves on Fatima, Portugal, a testament to the power of faith

Whether you’re a devout Catholic or just a curious gawker, the place is a marvel and worth a visit.

Festive Christmas wreath of fresh natural spruce branches with red holly berries isolated on white background. New Year. Top view. Traditional decoration for Xmas holiday.
Get in the holiday swing of things — make a wreath

Area garden centers have the greenery and equipment so you can make a one-of-a-kind decoration for your home.

Double-billed by Avis for a van returned after hours

When Robert Cipriani returns his Avis minivan, he expects to pay $1,770. Instead, Avis charges him twice. What happened, and how can he get his money back?

Kara (Gwynn Hawley) and her mom Jessie (Shaylyn Reed) connect with friends over Zoom in “A Miracle on 34th Street,” playing November 25-December 18 at the Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“A Miracle of 34th Street” updates the Christmas classic to COVID-19 times. It opens Friday in Marysville.

Is your partner grumpy? Here are some antidotes to consider

No. 1: Wait until your grump is in a good mood to talk to them about their grumpiness.

Caption: Curbside delivery at Kindred Kitchen in Everett made cooking dinner a whole lot easier. (Jennifer Bardsley)
A quick trip to Everett helps put dinner on the table

Kindred Kitchen on Broadway offers delicious, affordable meal kits — supporting a local humanitarian cause.

Taxus baccata 'Standishii', commonly called Standishii golden yew, and the image credit goes to Richie Steffen.
Great Plant Pick: Columnar golden yew

This slow-growing evergreen creates a low-maintenance vertical element in the garden.

Most Read