Review: Zach Theatre’s “A Christmas Story”
By definition, cult classics possess a devoted and enthusiastic set of followers. Although they may not exactly “mature” with age, such films gain momentum with time and circulation, eventually snowballing into cultural fixtures to be repackaged for devoted fans.
With limited success at the time of its initial release, the 1983 film, “A Christmas Story,” has earned its place in the holiday television line-up. Now, you can see it on stage as well.
Playing through Dec. 29 at Zach Theatre, the stage version of “A Christmas Story” faithfully reproduces the tale of a boy and his quest for a B.B. gun.
Not to be confused with the Broadway musical version of the story released last year, this adaptation offers impressive staging without any song and dance.
The show opens on an idyllic winter scene, cleverly fashioned as a snow globe, which highlights the semi-fantastical nature of grown-up Ralphie Parker’s reminiscing. Michelle Ney’s remarkable scenic design avails itself of the space and technological capabilities of the new Topfer stage, offering a lovely array of visual delights over the course of the show.
As the adult Ralph Parker narrator of the story, Marco Perella takes us back to Parker’s youth in Hohman, Ind., where his mother made meatloaf and red cabbage for dinner every night, and his father waged daily wars on a recalcitrant furnace.
All young Ralphie (Magnus Bohls alternating with Keaton Brandt) wanted for Christmas (and out of life) that year was an official Red Ryder carbine-action, two-hundred-shot air rifle (with a compass and a “thing that tells time” in the stock). And, of course, every time he tells anyone of his heart’s desire, they reply with the heart-sinking observation that he’ll likely shoot his eye out. But Ralphie is determined to prove them wrong.
Interwoven in the saga of Ralphie’s quest for the gun, we get comedic snippets of home life with his quirky little brother (William May alternating with Diego Rodriguez), his compassionate and clever mother (Meredith McCall) and his vociferous and single-minded father (Chris Gibson).
Perella has some big shoes to fill when it comes to re-capturing the comic timing of the film’s narration, and, unfortunately, the delivery falls short.
However, as the father, Gibson delights with his creative cursing of life’s inconveniences and his stubborn devotion to the (now-iconic) tacky leg-lamp he wins in a contest. And the children of the ensemble inevitably charm as they act out young Raphie’s daydreams and reminiscences.