ARTS CLUB THEATRE COMPANY
A Christmas Story
Adapted for the Stage by Philip Grecian
Based on Jean Shepherd's Short Story
Director Katrina Dunn
Dates and Venue 30 November– 30 December 2006 @ 20.00h Granville Island Stage, Vancouver
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Based on the film that I enjoyed watching around 20 years ago, A Christmas Story is truly a holiday favourite. The play begins with the narrator Ralphie Parker (Terence Kelly) who is in his late forties or early fifties remembering his boyhood Christmas of 1938. All he wanted from Santa when he was nine years old was a Red Ryder BB gun, a gift that “no self-respecting cowboy would be without.”
Many of the things alluded to in this play brought back memories to the baby boomers like myself in the audience. In fact, I remember having a BB gun when I was 10 and having soap in my mouth for blurting out swear words. I even remember Lifebuoy soap which was referred to in this show! Just as I was warned by my mom to be careful with the BB gun, Ralphie (Lucas Testini) gets repeated warnings from his mom (Melissa Poll), his teacher Miss Shields (Dawn Petten), and even Santa Claus that he’ll shoot his eye out.
When he visits Santa to ask for his "Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle", Santa Claus replies: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid." In fact, when he tries to use it in the backyard on Christmas day, the BB gunshot bounces off target and hits his face, to which he exclaims: "Oh my god, I shot my eye out!"
I even remember the flit-gun sprayers used in the fifties to kill mosquitoes and insects, one of those devices referred to in this play when Ralphie thinks tof giving this as a Christmas gift to his dad. He ends up giving his dad a simonizer instead. I guess car buffs still use this to keep their cars really shiny.
Jean Shepherd satirizes American life through Ralphie who narrates the story as an adult. The author's playful yet biting wit on life not only American but also Canadian gives us what Director Dunn refers to as a "bizarre, hilarious tale of the North American consciousness".
Hilarious, indeed! Not too bizarre, though, for those of my generation. But looking back, "spare the rod" was quite uncommon compared to all the "freedom" and "rights" children have these days.
The seven child actors were just great. I was with my 13-year old niece on opening night, and her favorite actor was Ralphie's younger brother, Randy (Domenico DeMichina). From this boy's bio, he's been around, acting when he was at the "ripe old age" of 10 months old. He's now a screen actor and will appear in the upcoming film Night at the Museum using the screen name Nico McEown.
The other child actors performed really well too, including Erik loannidis as Scut the bully, David Cohen as Schwartz, Julien Galipeau as Flick, Anouska Anderson Kirby as Helen, and Katie Pezarro as Ester Jane (the love interest of Ralphie). David McKay as Ralphie's "old man" was also funny. I enjoyed the scene when mom "accidentally" breaks dad's favorite leg lamp which he won at some crossword puzzle contest:
DAD: Why did you
touch that? You were always jealous of this lamp.
Productionwise, there was indeed a lot of work put into this play. Just costumes alone by Sheila White took up a lot of changes. During his moments of fantasizing, Ralphie dons a cowboy suit, a Shakesperean costume, and a hunter shooting down a boa constrictor with his BB gun. Miss Shields becomes a witch and the mother is in a ridiculously funny bird costume.
The set design also took a lot of effort from David Roberts. From a two-story house to the Department Store with a huge Santa sticking out his red tongue where the kids slide down after telling Santa what they want for Christmas.
Congratulations to the Arts Club for this really funtastic show! It'll be a nice Christmas treat for young and old.
© 2006 Ed Farolan