‘Christmas Cabin of Carnaween’ at Creative Cauldron by Julia L. Exline

Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace Falls Church presents Christmas Cabin of Carnaween, an original adaptation of an old Irish folktale directed by Laura Connors Hull. The spirit of selflessness and giving is at the heart of this production, and is shown in a loving way that enchants the entire family!

Scenic Designer Margie Jervis uses a large assortment of sticks to create the atmosphere of a brambly moor, with a dreary blue light cast over it through Lighting Designer John Sami. It is a poor environment, made even clearer when the actors appear, dressed by Jervis, who is also the costumer for this production. Raggedy shawls, scarves, and newsboy hats staples for these characters, who trudge across the stage with their heads bowed against an unseen wind. Live music is supplied by the musical trio “Magh Meall” (Gaelic for “Plain of Joy”), with Mary Wilkerson on the fiddle, Rosemary Gano on the flute, and Brogan Latil on the guitar. Their music ranged from solemn to joyful, and was a beautiful accompaniment to the actions onstage.

Two storytellers (Penelope Fleming and Denise Perrino) tell the tale about the life of Oona Hegarty (Katie Culligan), beginning when she was left as a newborn on the doorstep of Mr. and Mrs. Hegarty (Jim Lynch and Judy Butler) by a wandering gypsie (or “tinker,” as they call them). Despite the fact that they already have eight children of their own, the Hegarty’s raise Oona into a loving young woman in a tender, if meager, household, full of love and dancing (in a particularly nice scene, they dance a jig called “The Creel of Turf,” choreographed by Stephen Gregory Smith. However, though Oona is beautiful and kind, no one will marry her because of her controversial birthright, and she is subjected to taunts by the local townspeople.

Oona lives her life helping others, including being a caring nurse to a widower’s children, who adore her. She sings and dances with them (an upbeat “Johnny When you Die”), and tells them stories about fairies, who make the best friends…and worst enemies. Oona finds hope and happiness in the dreariest of times, even when a potato famine strikes her village (“famine can put stones in the place of human hearts”), and she is cast out once more, old and achingly alone.

Or is she alone? In a moment of pure Christmas spirit, Oona finds herself being shown mercy and kindness for a change, and the magical source of this grace is uplifting. No matter how awful the circumstances, with kindness and generosity always comes hope.

I particularly enjoyed this production – in it is the sense of comfort and warmth that one associates with the Christmas season. The music and performances are well done, with spot-on accents and strong singing voices. This production also contains a youth ensemble, and they all do a fine job.

Take your family to Christmas Cabin of Carnaween for some holiday seasonal magic!

Running Time: 75 minutes, without an intermission.

Christmas Cabin of Carnaween plays through December 23, 2012 at Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace Falls Church– 410 South Maple Avenue, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (571) 239-5288, or order them online.


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