Seeing a uniquely talented actor like Scott Wichmann perform the near-entirety of “It’s a Wonderful Life” would be a theatrical value in itself. But as my critical colleagues have pointed out in their reviews, the real “value-add” with “This Wonderful Life” at the Barksdale is that the structure of the show includes commentary on the movie, thereby allowing not only re-enactment but celebration and just a little bit of sarcasm at the expense of the holiday classic. Some of the biggest laughs in the show come from these meta-moments, such as Scott’s non-explanation of “run on the bank” and I particularly enjoyed the wry asides about bottles marked “Poison” and bank inspectors visiting on Christmas Eve.
Not only does Scottie totally inhabit a great array of characters – what an awesome Jimmy Stewart! – but his significant technical skill enhances other aspects of the show, like his switching into “fast forward” – a particular favorite of my daughter. Mr. Wichmann never fails to impress, no matter what character he is portraying, but the specific physicality he brings to his one-man shows always strikes me.
One small moment in the show is when George and Mary throw rocks at the old house that would eventually become their house. The movement of “throwing like a girl” is fairly cliché and as such is easy to overdo, but Scott captures the femininity of Mary’s throw without exaggerating it. It’s similar to a clumsy versus a careful portrayal of a gay male character: almost any hack can do an extravagantly fey queen, but creating a real person who may just have a hint of swish is hard. Mary’s throw comes and goes in an instant but it’s emblematic of what an incredible job Scott does with this show.