You won't shoot your eye out at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's production of A Christmas Story.
But you might spit your drink out.
The Rep's stage version of the 1983 Christmas movie opened Friday night in funny and feel-good fashion -- brilliant as a leg lamp gleaming in a window and comforting as a fuzzy pink bunny suit.
Considering the supremely quotable movie, based on the stories of humorist Jean Shepherd, airs on basic cable for a full 24 hours on Christmas, we're not sure a recap of the plot is necessary. But here goes: Ralphie Parker encounters indignities such as a coonskin-capped school bully, a mouthful of Lifebuoy soap and an unsympathetic Santa in his obsessive quest to receive a BB gun. More specifically, an "Official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle." See? Quotable.
Directed by Mark Shanahan, the cast of 11 adeptly fulfills its nearly impossible task: breathing new life into a story everyone knows and could see at home for free, while retaining the nostalgia of a beloved classic.
Most of the action of the nicely paced show, which runs two hours and has one 15-minute intermission, takes place in the Parkers' 1940 working-class home -- an effective two-story structure by set designer Mike Nichols, who makes clever allowances to capture moments like the epic tire-changing scene.
As adult Ralphie, John Ottavino seamlessly balances narrating the story while simultaneously participating in it, shadowing young Ralphie (played by adorable Joe McCurdy), as well as playing other characters from a Christmas tree salesman to a delivery man to an elf.
Justin R.G. Holcomb nails the loud, yet lovable Old Man role, while Claire Brownell is just right as the Mother who puts up with him. Rounding out Ralphie's family, Max McCurdy manages to steal many a scene as Randy, the whiny little brother with an overactive bladder. The three are particularly priceless in one of Ralphie's farcical daydreams.
And speaking of daydreams, the one with Ralphie's teacher Miss Shields (played by Rosemary Loar) -- and a surprise sidekick-- is worth the price of admission alone.
While much of the show is intended to tickle, a few moments are downright tender. Did we really just get teary at our 3,294th viewing of A Christmas Story?
A Christmas Story will be performed at 2 and 7 p.m. today and Sunday at the Rep, 601 Main St., Little Rock. The show runs through Dec. 25 with show times at 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday (with additional performances at 2 p.m. Dec. 10, 17 and 20 and at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Dec. 13). Tickets are $50 and $40, or $25 for students. Call (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.
Metro on 12/03/2016
Print Headline: REVIEW: A Christmas Story at the Rep is warm, funny holiday fare