Three Modern Wise Men
The Adobe Theater’s take on holiday cheer
I don't mind a saccharine seasonal play. But cut that unabashed sweetness with a shot of dark humor and the convenient miracles of a Christmas tale like My Three Angels are dosed with reality, making the story perfectly relatable—and that's important when the play was penned in 1953 and set in 1910 French Guiana.
In the penal colony of Cayenne, the Ducotel family's small store struggles under the management of the nebbish father figure, Felix. More of a dreamer than a practical businessman, Felix hands out credit to anyone, and in turn, is taken advantage of by everyone. His all too trusting nature is balanced by his wife, Emilie (played in this production with as much depth as is afforded by the writing by the incomparable Bridget Dunne), whose head is a bit more firmly on her shoulders. A team of convicts, or, as they amend their title in the play—murderers—on a work release program are busy repairing the family's roof on the cheap. It's Christmas Eve, and along with their daughter, Marie Louise, the family worries over the impending visit of the store's fiscal supporter, the classically contemptible Henri Trochard, accompanied by his arrogant nephew, Paul, who has jilted Marie Louise.
Descending literally from on high (the roof), the team of convicts swings through the shop doors and proceeds to win each of the Ducotels—as well as the audience—over. Played with magnetic charm, this show is theirs. Our leads are Joseph, a charismatic con man played with beguiling aplomb by Shangreaux Lagrave; Jules, whimsical and warm, who contributes a lot of unpretentious heart to the show, played by standout Brian Jackson; and last, but not least, the skulking, surprisingly tender brute, Alfred, assumed by Tim Riley.
While there are the rote and predictable sentiments and happy endings here, they are colored by an alternate morality, guided by the convicts' hard-won wisdom. “There is no justice,” they repeat many times throughout the play—a sentiment articulated in the character of Henri Trochard—who is rich and successful, but entirely lacking in kindness, a foil to the down-and-out angels, who have goodness (their own articulation of it) in spades.
What's created in this indelible production is a hopeful piece of theater, that, while not subtle in its metaphors and morals, renders the viewer accepting and hopeful. There's something of the childlike Christmas spirit in that, I think. And that's not mentioning the many good, full belly laughs delivered by the punchy dialogue. Under the guidance of Micah Linford, this show is a delight. Bolster your holiday spirits with a visit to The Adobe Theater (9813 Fourth NW) before My Three Angels' closing night on Dec. 18.