BIRMINGHAM STORYTELLER THRILLS AUDIENCE IN "A CHRISTMAS MEMORY"
review by Mary B. Tomlinson, The Monroe Journal
“Brilliant” is probably the only word that can describe Dolores Hydock’s performance in Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory, in the Old Monroe County Courtroom last Friday night.
Presented in conjunction with the Heritage Museum’s Fruitcake Festival, this Birmingham storyteller held the imagination of an audience for a full hour, but which to most attendees, seemed like only a few minutes. She had spit out the words of Capote’s Miss Sook and made them her very own.
In an interview prior to the program, Hydock talked about her storytelling. Minutes before going on stage, she said, “The message of all stories is that you are not alone; that someone else has experienced the same or similar adventures. She also pointed out that while things of the world divide us, stories bring us together."
“A Christmas Memory” is the story of an unpretentious 60-year-old woman and her 7-year-old distant cousin, whose escapades and rituals remind us of our own childhoods and enable us to recapture those pivotal years.
Hydock noted in her interview that the rituals of Miss Sook and Buddy duplicate those of us at Christmastime—gathering ingredients for their Christmas fruitcake; selecting a tree; getting presents and wrapping them in whatever material is available. She added, “Families have those rituals, which are a necessary part of our lives." And a short time later—without script or notes and with only two kitchen stools as props, this storyteller relied entirely on her memory, and Hydock’s ever-changing face and body movements mimicked the exact words and expressions of Miss Sook as much as if they had been her very own.
And with a skill not often seen on the stage, she deftly busied her fingers, her arms, her shoulders and even her feet as pantomime tools as she charmed her audience. And even her own worn-out gray tweed sweater became as much a part of the act as did her demeanor, which changed as many times as her words.
And in that persona as Miss Sook, Hydock spoke of the pecans which she and Buddy had gathered. She even “peeled” them on stage, or so the audience thought. Deftly using her fingers, she cupped them inside her hand and hoodwinked those who swore they saw real pecans.
Nor were her arms idle. Stretched to their limit, her arms pointed to scenery and props, which were not there but seemed as real and as far as our eyes would take us. And after only a few sips of Mr. HaHa’s whiskey, her feet, which moved in rhythmic stomps, became intoxicated fumblers a few swigs later.
But Hydock had one more tool for charming the audience—her piercing hazel eyes, which dashed here and there among a packed house of people who couldn’t seem to get enough of her.
On a bare courthouse stage, she had grabbed her audience from the moment she emerged unexpectedly from the back door of the courtroom until she jumped onto the stage. Hydock took on the persona of one of Capote’s favorite characters and gave a sterling performance for people even minimally rooted in Capote lore.