Good Company Players adapt Christmas classic
Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story is most likely categorized as a Christmas staple by anyone wishing to experience the feeling of holiday spirit. The plot centers around middle-aged Ralph Parker’s recollection of a Christmas year that was very monumental to his childhood. Ralph narrates the story as the audience is taken back to his childhood home in the late 1940s.
Here, we encounter his crazy younger brother Randy, his patronizing yet well-meaning mother and his eccentric, hot tempered father. In the middle of winter, Ralphie has his hands full with avoiding the school bully, experiencing a first crush and choosing the perfect Christmas gift to wish for.
All little Ralphie wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB gun. Present-day Ralph begins to explain the comical misadventures he experienced in his attempts to acquire the desired gift from his parents, who were reluctant to bestow such a dangerous toy upon him.
I saw the movie version of A Christmas Story for the first time last December and unfortunately did not enjoy it. The slapstick humor and classic childhood troubles Ralphie encounters ceased to amuse me, so I was unsure of how I would respond to Good Company Players’ live presentation of this Christmas story.
To my surprise, I genuinely enjoyed their production. Although the general storyline is not my favorite, the excellent acting captured my attention, drawing me into Ralphie’s world. I was very impressed by every member of the cast, but a few characters stood out to me.
Ralphie’s parents (Jonathon Hogan and Elizabeth Stoeckel) did a commendable job of portraying the couple’s strong personalitites. Hogan’s tyrannical rants and Stoeckel’s motherly disposition added the perfect touches to their roles.
The narration of the Ralphie’s adult counterpart (Brian Rhea) was also superb. He engaged the audience with his spirited yet nostalgic account of childhood. The tone of his voice was perfect for storytelling due to its rich qualities.
Naturally it was Ralphie (Samuel Linkowski), who became the star of the show. His exaggerated facial expressions, gestures and verbal intonations allowed him to create a very real character and connect with the audience through his schemes to acquire a BB gun. As Linkowski already possesses so much talent at such a young age, he has the potential to attain great success in his future acting career.
I especially enjoyed the dream sequences in which Ralphie envisions all of the amazing ways he could save his family from danger if only he possessed the BB gun. The physical comedy — specifically on the part of Linkowski — was quite humorous.
There were numerous costume changes, as the story ranged over a period of several weeks leading up to Christmas. I am a fan of 40s fashion, so I appreciated this aspect of the show.
Additionally, the majority of the set was comprised of the kitchen and living room portion of the Parkers’ home — it was quite elaborate, featuring real food. The kitchen appliances, which were of course appropriate for the time of the story, added a quaint, homey feeling to the show. The most remarkable aspect of the set was the Parkers’ car, which folded out from boxes that also served as seats in the set’s elementary school.
The Good Company Players cast most certainly did justice to this Christmas classic. They surpassed my expectations and their live performance transformed what I considered to be an obnoxious movie into an enjoyable production.
A Christmas Story will continue running through Dec. 18 at 2nd Space Theatre in the Tower District. For more information, contact the Good Company Players box office at 559.266.0660, or visit their website.