A MAJOR BREACH OF PROTOCOL: Will Flick
Young Ralphie (Michael Rothstein) is a 9-year-old who knows exactly what he wants: a Red Ryder 200-shot carbine-action range-model air rifle with a compass and this thing (a sundial, actually) that tells time.
Now, perhaps you yourself, dear reader, find something thrillingly familiar in this percussive object of Ralphie’s Christmas desire. If so, I’ll wager that you were weaned on the fresh-faced seasonal shenanigans of the 1983 movie A Christmas Story. Perhaps you sat cross-legged on institutional carpet, on that luxurious last pre-vacation day of school, to watch Ralphie’s pining and sweet conniving over the coveted Red Ryder. Perhaps you sighed, stomped, and schemed along with him as he weathers countless philistine disparagements: “You’ll shoot your eye out.” If so, you’ll get a nostalgic kick out of bringing your own young folks to a live, lively version of the modern holiday classic, produced now through December 30 at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, in Portsmouth.
Even if you missed out on the grade school holiday assembly screening, A Christmas Story is a funny, heartwarming, and mischievous alternative to the standard holiday-play-which-shall-not-herein-be-mentioned. As a grown Ralph (Chris Bradley) narrates us back through his ninth Christmas season in his small Indiana town, there’s a little something for everybody: For the grownups, the play features both nostalgia of a ’50s childhood and comic parental foibles (the fine Carolyn Hause and Ed Batchelder as Mom and Dad are tremendous fun, especially when Dad wins a racy table lamp that riles Mom). And for the young people, there is plenty of classic kid foolery, as sharp and messy and epic as we all remember it. Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz (Michael Peel and Evan Moritz) navigate a world that contains an evil bully in a Davy Crockett cap, evilly named Scut Farkas (Andrew Bridges); a cruel schoolteacher (played with finesse by Hause) who assigns a dreaded “theme” essay right before vacation; and the frightening prospect of the yearly interlude with Santa at Goldblatt’s department store.
Part of the fun of this show is how the script revels in the tangible goodies of the era — we hear exalted not just Ralphie’s holiday grail, but also the sugarplum visions of water pistols, tin zeppelins, chemistry sets, a perfume atomizer with golden lion’s feet (for Ralphie’s mom), and a family-size can of Simonize (for Ralphie’s dad, an Oldsmobile man).
There are also gobs of beautifully realized fantasy scenes, complete with accents and elaborate dress-up duds. One time, Ralphie and his Red Ryder-to-be rescue his friends, hopelessly lost in their safari boats, from sure jungle death. He saves the day by shooting deadly snakes out of the canopy. In another fantasy, Ralphie takes a stand in the dining room to protect his family against a slew of pint-sized pole-cat varmints in black bandanas.