New Jersey Stage

Thursday, November 17, 2011

East Lynne Theater presents "Christmas Presents from the Past"

(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- "One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all.  And sixty-seven cents of it was in pennies.  Pennies saved one and two at a time. Three times Della counted it.  And the next day would be Christmas."

    Thus begins one of the most famous Christmas stories of all time, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (1862-1910). Della wants to purchase the perfect present for her husband, but can she do it with only one dollar and eighty-seven cents? 

     Presents come in all shapes and sizes, and this holiday season, the award-winning Equity professional East Lynne Theater Company is offering its own "Christmas Presents from the Past," on November 25 and 26, and December 4, 9 and 10 at 8:30p.m. at The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St. in Cape May, where the company is in residence.

     The theme about presents continues with Mark Twain's (1835-1910) "Susie's Letter from Santa Claus."  Writing to his own daughter as if he were St. Nick himself, Twain strives to be sure that he clearly understands what Susie wants for Christmas, and best to deliver it.

     "The Christmas Masquerade," by Mary Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930) is about a Christmas Eve ball, where every child, rich and poor, are allowed to dress up in any costume they choose. One year, no matter how hard the parents tried to undress their children, the costumes would not be removed.  Will the Mayor’s daughter be forever a shepherdess and the cobbler’s son a prince?  The resolution involves Christmas presents.

     According to "What the Bells Saw and Said" by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), the spirits of the bells meet at midnight every Christmas Eve to discuss the state of affairs where they ring. Their presents to those listening below, are their own melodic voices – voices which ring for all to have peace, love, and good will for all.             

     These classic tales were adapted by ELTC's artistic director Gayle Stahlhuth who also performs the thirty-some characters in storytelling fashion. Her past solo Christmas performances of stories by L. Frank Baum, Louisa May Alcott, O. Henry, Edward Everett Hale, and Bret Harte have been praised by reviewers and audience alike. With the flick of a wrist, the bend of the waist, the turn of the head, and a change in the tone of voice, she brings a character to life in a heartbeat.

     Gayle is in her thirteenth year as ELTC's artistic director, and as such, has directed over half of the 61 different shows she's produced (not including repeats), including "Why Marry?," the first play to win the Pulitzer Prize, and the time-travel adventure "Berkeley Square." She's appeared in Off-Broadway, regional, touring productions, and on the Chautauqua circuit, and she and her husband, Lee O'Connor reside in West Cape May, NJ and Manhattan.

     Tickets are $25 for general admission, $15 for full-time students, and, as always, anyone age 12 and under is free. For information and reservations, call 609-884-5898 or go online to

     Meanwhile, learn about a variety of cheeses and support ELTC at "Cheese School," sponsored by Seaside Cheese and Cape May Winery on Monday, December 5 from 7:00-9:00p.m. at the winery, 711 Townbank Rd., North Cape May. Contact ELTC for details.