As this week’s ”Stage” review indicates, Mark Medoff’s internet-era Christmas fable “Kringle’s Window” — given a local revival by Theatre Arlington — didn’t quite work for me. Though its heart is in the right place, the script tries so hard to be embracing of different cultural traditions that it winds up dripping sticky treacle over all of them.
And the central figure of Mrs. Rosen – a multi-lingual holiday witch who uses her magic as well as her internet skills to reunite a family – was tough to swallow. She might be able to summon thunder and lighting with the wave of a hand, but the computer kids depicted in “Kringle’s Window” (1992) were easily impressed by old-fashioned sorcery – after all, they didn’t have high speed access, wireless, and social networking back then. Rosen would have to text her supernatural pearls of wisdom to get attention from today’s young cyber-citizens.
Still, in creating a modern Christmas witch, Medoff probably researched the Italian legend of La Befana, the broom-riding holiday hag who for centuries delivered candy or coal to Italy’s children. There are all kinds of variations on this story – some emphasize the pagan part, some the Christian part. My favorite is tinged with madness and obsession: La Befana is a peasant woman whose infant son is the sole light of her dreary life. When the baby dies, she goes insane. Hearing that another boy has been born in Bethlehem under extraordinary circumstances – and believing that it must be her own child reborn — she travels a great distance until she finds the baby. Impressed by her love and dedication, Christ designates La Befana the mother of all Italian children. Great stuff.
Here’s an internet salute to La Befana full of cartoon images and an impassioned performance by (I think) singer Gianni Morandi of a famous Italian folk song. Please note the illustrations where La Befana, in a fit of nationalistic pride, is kicking Santa’s ass.