Harnett Regional Theatre recently changed its look, repainting and adding plush new carpet, and is celebrating the welcome change with a can’t-miss performance of the holiday classic, “A Christmas Story,” directed by Vicki Wade. While, at first glance, “A Christmas Story” seems like a simple play to produce, it’s actually anything but. The lighthearted and playful script calls for a strong lead/narrator as the adult Ralphie, careful blocking, believable chemistry between the main cast, and a slew of cute kids. Past performances have proven that the theatre has the last criterion covered, and this production rises to the play’s challenges and meets them head-on.
Many productions of “A Christmas Story,” including professional productions, falter when it comes to adult Ralphie. The writing calls for the character, who is recounting memories from Christmas past that play out on stage, to be visible, or at least audible, a large chunk of the time, often resulting in blocking challenges that, if not handled adeptly, lead to a hard-to-see-cast and a blemishing of the nostalgic quality that is at the show’s heart. Wade’s direction, however, makes this problem non-existent by utilizing the area directly in front of the stage and the stage sides, resulting in an adult Ralphie, portrayed by Rick Stephenson, who does his job of recounting and watching without interfering with or detracting from the central story.
Another challenge of the adult Ralphie character is the sheer density of his lines, yet with nary a stutter in sight and an easy charm, Stephenson makes the role appear effortless. With the most difficult challenges of the show handled, HRT’s production speeds along breezily, playing out against surprisingly complex sets that are a dead ringer for the ones featured in the much-loved 1983 film and that easily move the characters from young Ralphie’s home to his school, the great outdoors, a Christmas tree lot, and even the local shopping mall.
Noah Massengill makes for a precocious young Ralphie, one who is determined to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, despite the refusal of the adults in his life. His lovable and mischievous cast of friends, which includes an able and adorable Sam Medlin as the runty Flick— adds to the show’s fun, and the actors portraying Ralphie’s family have a facile chemistry. Mary Hill proves particularly skilled in her role as Ralphie’s mother, going from stern to sweet as the script demands, while Dennis McCool boldly and convincingly takes on the complexities of “The Old Man” role.
It also has to be said that this production absolutely nails the film’s iconic moments–the “only I didn’t say Fudge” scene, the asking Santa scene, the soap poisoning scene, and the tongue stuck to the pole scene; they’re all there, and they are all handled expertly. While longtime fans of the film will instantly recognize these scenes, they still hold charm and humor for those who are immersing themselves in this story for the first time. Scenes that Ralphie imagines are given a dreamlike quality with impressive lighting effects, and underneath all the humor, this production still manages to deliver original writer Jean Shepherd’s muted undertones of poverty and the effects of commercialism.
Viewers can see this whimsical performance through November 24th; tickets and showtimes are available at http://www.onlinehrt.org.
Harnett Regional Theatre presents A CHRISTMAS STORY at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21-23 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 24 at the Stewart Theatre, 114 N. Wilson Ave., Dunn, North Carolina 28334.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 students under 18 and seniors 60+), except $9-per-ticket “Family Night” performance at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21st.
BOX OFFICE: Tickets will be sold at the door.
INFORMATION 910-892-6011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW/NEWS RELEASE: http://onlinehrt.org/news-events/news.
PRESENTER: http://onlinehrt.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/onlinehrt.
Jean Shepherd (author): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Shepherd (Wikipedia).
A Christmas Story (1983 film): http://www2.warnerbros.com/achristmasstory/ (official website for the DVD) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Story (Wikipedia).
A Christmas Story (the play): http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=271 (official web page).
Philip Grecian (playwright): http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/AuthorBio.php?titlelink=9381 (Dramatic Publishing).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.