You’ve probably watched the movie umpteen times, maybe you saw the play at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., last year, but “A Christmas Story,” back by popular demand at Barter, is definitely worth seeing again.
Directed this year by Richard Rose — Katy Brown was at the reins last December — it is just different enough yet retains all the warmth and charm woven into the original story by author Jean Shepherd. And, except for Nicho-las Piper and Justin Tyler Lewis, who play adult Ralphie and young Ralphie respectively, the rest of the cast is mostly new.
On the surface the play is about young Ralphie Parker in 1939 Hohman, Ind., who covets a Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle and how he schemes to find one under his Christmas tree despite having to battle adult resistance centering on the ominous phrase: “You’ll put your eye out.”
The real story, however, and the one that really touches us, is the warmth and love in Ralphie’s family. Set in mid-dle-America Indiana and nearly two years before the United States officially entered World War II, this is a piece that invokes romantic nostalgia for an America into which most of us hadn’t even been born, a time of “traditional” families with Father, a stay-at-home Mom and two or three children; a small town in which a kid’s greatest danger was getting beaten up by the neighborhood bully; where buying the Christmas turkey was a big deal; and small de-partment stores still existed.
Nearly everything else we’ve loved about this story is right there in the stage version: Ralphie’s mom and his old man, his little brother who eats oatmeal like the little piggy, the tongue stuck to the metal flagpole, Scut Farkas the neighborhood bully, the giggly girls and even the irritable department store Santa and his prickly elf. Both Piper and Lewis are great in their reprised roles. Nick Koesters is delightful as Ralphie’s father as he constantly battles his malevolent furnace and his neighbors’ pack of unruly hounds.
Wondering what to buy for a special someone who seems to have everything? You could certainly do a lot worse than a ticket to “A Christmas Story.” Or, better yet, buy two tickets and take them yourself.
“A Christmas Story,” one of the Barter’s most attended plays in its 80-year history, plays through Dec. 29. For reservations: 276-628-3991 or www.bartertheatre.com.