A Christmas Story: Resurrecting Americana for the Holidays

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l. to r. Adam Freeman as Schwartz, Charlie Brodigan as Flick, Lexi Ryan as Esther Jane, and Andrew Cekala as Young Ralphie. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures

A Christmas Story, adapted/written by Philip Grecian, New Repertory Theatre, Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 12/11/11-12/24/11, http://newrep.org/christmas_story.php.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Watertown, MA) Like the film it’s adapted from, the stage version of A Christmas Story paints a childhood spent during the holidays in a golden glow.  Yes, the flustered family of Ralphie (Andrew Cekala) meet nothing but frustrations as they try to pull Christmas together against mean-spirited neighborhood dogs, hideous bunny suits, and intimidating department store Santas, but their holiday is ultimately a nostalgic one.

A string of bad luck is outlined in narrator Barlow Adamson’s recollections of his childhood in the 1940’s.  Where the film had a narrator with an ironically humorous and remote presence, Adamson wanders around the set, doing things like slipping the actors playing his parents (Owen Doyle and Stacy Fischer) ads for the infamous Red Ryder BB Gun that his younger self desires so much.  He takes an active role in, rather than being a filter for, his memories.  It’s an interesting concept, but his epic retellings of otherwise mundane holiday events are often deadly serious.

The rest of the production is dedicated to resurrecting the classic Americana of the film, bringing fan favorite scenes to the stage.  They’re satisfying moments, especially when Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy (David Farwell), gets in trouble in new and hilarious ways.  Like the film, though, the separate pieces never quite gel into a single plot. A Christmas Story, like the carols played over department store sound systems every season, is enjoyable in what it tries to recall rather than what it tries to create on its own.

Audiences familiar with the film and interested in reliving certain scenes will find the play to be an excellent holiday diversion.  Those neither invested in the film or the time period, however, may find fun in the slapstick if the rest of the play doesn’t register. It’s a portrait of a baby boomer’s childhood more than anything else, one that may be lost on some audiences but precious to others.

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