A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

Garden Theater

Childhood is at best a murky memory with some incidents lost and forgotten, and others grown and inflated to obsessions. In the dream time of Jean Shepard’s 1930’s child hood, the quest for a BB gun dominates his Christmas list, and the unnamed parents revel in their depression era holiday excess. I recently read an editorial bemoaning “A Christmas Story” as being “Un-Christmassy” due to its consumerism, mean spirited kid fights and parody of Asians. True, perhaps, but that give the story its charms as well. It’s not sappy, it’s not feel good, and it reflects at least my childhood reality of awkward gifts from ditzy relatives and uncomfortable winter clothing. And a BB gun? That would have been TOTALLY cool!

Another thing that’s totally cool? This over the top production complete with moving set pieces, fake Florida snow and sly humor. The older Mr. Shepherd (Waldon) narrates the show as he slides in and out of his memory’s unseen to the actors yet omniscient to the audiences. Young Ralphie (Bangsund) is obsessed with the BB gun and all the benefits it offers to defending the house against bad guys, and the other kids all seem in a in the joke as well. The Old Man (Walczak) does an excellent job with his G-rated profanity, and mom (Mansoori) is the sort of sweet innocent TV wife who gets her way through cleverness and subterfuge. Great scenes include Flick (Parker Sims-Chin) with his tongue stuck to an Indiana flag pole, little brother Randy (Kenny Poole) sliding down the Santa slide and peeing, and the puffs of furnace smoke arising from the basement whenever we needed a scene change or some comic profanity.

The holiday portrayed here looks like the real deal: the vicissitudes of life are not magically wiped away, but simply put in a corner like rolling up a rug for dancing. Motivations are straight forward if not always honorable: vengeance, vulgar displays of wealth and status, and actually having fun with the excess. Ralphie’s trip down the stairs in a pink bunny suit reveals the heart of the holiday: here he’s at his most vulnerable when pleasing those who do not please him. When Ralphie fakes an icicle to the eye after he nearly pokes that eye out, he’s sneaky and well on his way to adult hood. But back in that pink suit of shame, he’s just a kid, old enough to sense how others see him, but unable to control this image himself.

www.gardentheatre.org

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