It must say something about the American psyche that the movies we treasure as holiday favorites have such dark themes. Take It’s a Wonderful Life, for example. A man is driven to suicide by his financial and family circumstances, and believes the world would be a better place without him in it. Just before he jumps off a bridge on Christmas Eve, an angel named Clarence swoops in and saves him by showing him what the world would look like without him. Eventually, George Bailey is back home, and convinced that the whole town needs him.
Similarly, Miracle on 34th Street is universally revered as a heartwarming Christmas tale that will reaffirm your belief in Santa Claus. To get to the gooey ending, however, it takes us through some difficult territory. An elderly man going by the name of Kris Kringle takes a job as a Macy’s Santa Claus, but he is a little too convinced that he’s the real thing, and soon his sanity is on trial.
Doris Walker, who hired Kris, has her hands full trying to bring up her daughter sensibly and truthfully. To her, the most dangerous fairy tale of all is the belief that Mr. Right will come along and save her. Then, wouldn’t you know, along comes a lawyer neighbor who fancies himself her Mr. Right, and has charmed Susan as well. Add the fortuitous appearance of the sweet old man who might be Santa Claus and Doris’ case for skepticism goes right out the window.
One could never accuse Miracle of being a feminist story, but it is nearly impossible not to be moved by it. Miracle is a lesson in faith. Despite the growing evidence against Kris Kringle that he is Santa Claus, he believes it so strongly, and comports himself exactly as you would want Santa to, so you begin to think you’d be a jerk not to believe in him.
Starting Nov. 22, SLO Little Theatre takes on this holiday classic, directed by Lisa Woske (who, coincidentally, directed It’s a Wonderful Life last year.) The cast includes Chad Stevens, John Laird, Carol Burkhart, Ron Burkhart, Jaimie Clarke, Don Dallmann, Saige Gardner, James Harlow, Bill Kirkpatrick, and Janice Peters.
The show runs through Dec. 22, with tickets from $15 to $25. See slolittletheatre.org for details.