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Review: REVIEW: A CHRISTMAS STORY at Contemporary Theater Company

Review: REVIEW: A CHRISTMAS STORY at Contemporary Theater Company

Runs through December 23

Contemporary Theater Company kicks off the holiday season with its delightful, rollicking production of "A Christmas Story," based on the beloved 1983 film written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark, and adapted for the stage by Philip Grecian.

Dutifully and expressly directed by Matt Fraza, "A Christmas Story" is narrated by Ralphie Parker, portrayed by the inimitably charming Ron Giles, who looks back upon one particular yuletide season when he was nine years old growing up in Indiana. An adorable John Philip Daly-House zestfully plays Young Ralphie, whose one Christmas wish is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle b.b. gun.

Rebecca Magnotta's colorful, pristine set transports the audience back to a 1940 household where Ralphie routinely gathers with his ubiquitous Mother (the always marvelous MJ Daly, especially resplendent in this role), testy Old Man (a fiery, endearing Paul C Kassabian) and younger siblings, Randy (Hazel Geremia, Beartice Ruedakurto) and Ricky (Paxton Ruedakurto).

When Ralphie's mother refuses to even entertain the idea of buying her son a b.b. gun, he seeks the endorsement of his teacher, (Miss) Shields (an earnest, eloquent Merynn Flynn), and even a department store Santa Claus. Much to Ralphie's chagrin, they share his mother's sentiment-"You'll shoot your eye out!"

Throughout Ralphie's sentimental journey, he is reminded of other memorable individuals and incidents from that momentous holiday season, which make for hilarious stage antics. Young Ralphie defends himself against neighborhood misfits (Josie Geremia, Diyani Mitchell-Sims) who continuously bully him and his friends, Flick (Peter Clancy, Tusz Ruedakurto) and Schwartz (Curtis Delmonico, Milo Jones); when his home's furnace repeatedly malfunctions, his frustrated Old Man uses profanity, which Ralphie later inadvertently mimics while helping his father repair a flat tire; the Bumpus family next door owns a pack of unruly wolf-like dogs that wreak havoc on Christmas day; and it would be criminal not to mention the infamous lamp in the shape of a fishnet-clad woman's leg-and thorn in his mother's side-that Ralphie's father won in a contest.

Truth be told, even with its annual marathon broadcast on Christmas day, I have never seen the movie in its entirety, so the story was almost completely new to me. Young Ralphie's adventure is howlingly funny yet equally profound, and adult Ralphie's retelling reminds the audience how easily we can remember select events from the past as youngsters-and learn to appreciate them when we're older.

One of the show's highlights is watching Daly and Kassabian wage war and exchange words over the Old Man's esteemed "major award," otherwise the production belongs to the ensemble of talented children who (despite forgetting to project on occasion) skillfully deliver their lines with physical comedy. Daly-House handily masters the multisyllabic pronunciation of the b.b. gun he covets, and the scenes shared with Giles are particularly uplifting.

Will Ralphie find a wrapped rifle under the Christmas tree? I think you know the answer, but more importantly, his real present is the nostalgic walk down memory lane, which Contemporary Theater Company's production vibrantly brings to life.


A Christmas Story will run through December 23 with evening performances and Sunday matinees. Details on dates and tickets for A Christmas Story are available on the Contemporary Theater Company's website at contemporarytheatercompany.com.



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From This Author - Christopher Verleger

Chris has been reviewing theater throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts since 2006. He lives and works in Southern Rhode Island.

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