T he San Luis Obispo Little Theatre brings the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story” to live action in a cute, family-friendly production.
The play, written by Philip Grecian, follows the movie in general, although it’s shortened somewhat, with the final Chinese restaurant act omitted. The film was based on short stories and memoirs by Jean Shepherd recalling his childhood in Indiana.
All 9-year-old Ralphie wants for Christmas is “an official Red Ryder 200-shot carbine-action range model air rifle with a compass and this thing that tells time built right into the stock.” But his mother, his teacher and other skeptical adults tell him he will “shoot his eye out.”
The adult Ralphie (now Ralph) narrates the story as he recalls events with his family and friends during that Christmas season. In this version, he is not a voiceover, but is well played by Larry Barnes, live onstage throughout the play.
The cast, directed by Chrys Barnes, is a fine combination of adults and young actors. Christopher Jensen is Ralphie. At age 11, he already has quite a resume of acting credits, and he’s a natural as the boy at the
center of the story.
Family members are Father — referred to as “the old man” by the adult Ralph—Mother and Ralphie’s kid brother, Randy. Mike Mesker, ever present on Central Coast stages, is a kick as the old man. He plays him to the hilt, emoting as he wins the amazing “leg lamp” in a contest, and swearing up a storm as he deals with a faulty furnace and a flat tire. His swearing is G-rated. It sounds like the real thing, but with different words. For example, say “dognab cinnamon dish” or “goat dandruff” fast and furiously and see what “real” swear words come to mind.
Brooke Foster-Nur is good as Mother, the stabilizing influence in the family, smart and calm most of the time—except when dealing with the lamp depicting a glowing, sexy female leg, which the old man proudly puts in the front window.
Young Jaden Robertshaw is cute as the little brother, hiding around the house and needing to “go wee-wee” at the most inopportune moments (like on Santa’s lap).
The other young actors are all good, as they
smoothly and naturally play their roles, wrapped up in winter hats and scarves. Joseph Seyedan is Schwartz, and Ernesto Roide is Flick, Ralphie’s two best friends. They are cute as they banter and tease each other. Creston Cooper plays Farkas, the school bully. Haley Zahn, Graciela Maldonado, Lizzy Hatfield and Emma Jane Haas alternate roles as the girls in Ralphie’s life.
Deborah Schwartz plays teacher Miss Shields as a funny caricature as remembered by Ralphie, and she also makes a good witch in one of Ralphie’s fantasies. Bob Peterson takes on the secondary roles of Santa, a tree lot attendant, and a neighbor.
The two-story set, by David Linfield, Dave Vicars and Kittie Vicars, is the family home, with additional scenes in a car, a classroom, and a Santa throne in a department store. Ann Greene is credited for the leg lamp. Sharon Woodside is costume designer.
References to obsolete brand names mark the period. The old man always drives an Oldsmobile and gets gas at Esso. Mother washes Ralphie’s mouth out with Lifebuoy soap when he says the F-word, and the old man orders from the Montgomery Ward catalogue.
Both adults and kids will get a kick out of this play and will enjoy seeing some young talent taking off.