'A Christmas Story' 

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Dec. 3

click to enlarge 'A CHRISTMAS STORY': Jason Harper and Cole Ewing star.
  • 'A CHRISTMAS STORY': Jason Harper and Cole Ewing star.

The potency of nostalgia is in full, charming and funny view at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's production of "A Christmas Story." Interesting that the nostalgia is for Christmas in the 1940s, which likely only tickles the memories of a small portion of the audience. But many more are likely nostalgic over the movie "A Christmas Story," which came out in 1983 and fairly soon after was recognized as an American holiday staple.

The Rep's production, directed by Nicole Capri, does right by "A Christmas Story" mostly thanks to sharp-eyed casting. It's been a good few months for Arkies on the Rep stage with Avery Clark's searing Hamlet and now Jason Harper's warm take on Ralph, who narrates the story of his younger self's pursuit of the holy grail of Christmas gifts — a Red Ryder BB gun. In the movie, the narrator is an off-screen voice, but in the play Harper is practically on stage the entire time and fills out a couple of smaller roles as well. Harper is an understated presence (with, naturally, for a former TV personality, a commanding voice) and finds and lands many of the script's numerous jokes.    

It's probably no surprise that Capri, who leads the Rep's popular summer theater program for kids, has found a number of capable local young actors to fill the roles of Ralphie, his friends and the two bullies that make his life miserable. As Ralphie, Cole Ewing has an expressive face that registers the ups and downs (his triumphant moment when his Christmas wish comes true is especially great) with great precision. Laura Medford doesn't have a particularly big part as Mrs. Shields, Ralphie's excitable teacher, but she makes every moment she has count. Bill Timoney as Ralphie's dad (credited as "Old Man" in the program) has lots of highlights but might register the biggest laugh in the show with a well-timed local reference.

In comparing the film to the play, the play comes across less frantic, a little more focused on Ralphie's family and perhaps not as hilarious from beginning to end. There are parts that come across more clearly on stage at the Rep, such as Ralphie's odd brother Randy hiding under everything in sight and the Old Man's love for turkey being so sharp because of being constantly fed meat loaf and red cabbage dinners. While "A Christmas Story" is loaded with references to "The Lone Ranger," Esso stations, Simonize and other relics of the past, the dream of receiving the perfect gift on Christmas day is a notion that will never grow old. "A Christmas Story" has something to say about that and about how a family can survive the special insanity of the American Christmas — long may it wave.  



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Werner Trieschmann

  • 'Disfarmer': behind the camera

    The strange case of Arkansas photographer Disfarmer, subject of a new play opening this weekend.
    • Sep 25, 2014
  • Live Review: Eric Church and Dwight Yoakam at Verizon

    Apparently Dwight Yoakam’s acting career is sufficiently slack enough that Friday night saw him opening for bro-country kingpin Eric Church at Verizon Arena. Hollywood is taking Yoakam in small enough doses (he has a recurring part on CBS’s “Under the Dome”) that he can lend his considerable talents to country music, which currently can use any kind of flavor it can get.
    • Sep 15, 2014
  • Musical 'Shrek' succeeds, mostly

    If light family entertainment is your speed.
    • Nov 2, 2011
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • An uneven 'Macbeth'

    Michael Stewart Allen as Macbeth carries the play.
    • Sep 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Latest in Theater Reviews

  • Standout acting

    In romantic 'Bridges.'
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Life during wartime

    The Rep updates Homer with 'An Iliad.'
    • Mar 3, 2016
  • A modern Pan

    "Peter and the Starcatcher" adds a modern flair to the Peter Pan story.
    • Jan 28, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Woeful

    • If the UA could get the SEC to stop all games if at any time…

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Woeful

    • The Mizz loss was worse than getting beat by Louisiana-Moron

    • on December 2, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation