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BB's and bunny suits

A Christmas Story at Tacoma Little Theatre

Big Ralph and Little Ralphie shine in A Christmas Story. Photo credit: Tacoma Little Theatre

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I confess that I was nervous going into Tacoma Little Theatre's production of A Christmas Story. Somehow, even though the 1983 film (upon which this play is based) plays on a non-stop loop on TV during the holiday season, I had somehow avoided seeing it during my 26 years on this planet. Naturally, I was intimidated to review something that held so much nostalgic weight for so many people. All I knew was that there was a bunny suit, a leg-shaped lamp, and a BB gun that may or may not shoot your eye out.

I am happy to report that TLT's A Christmas Story is an utter delight, and that it hit me just as well as it might someone who's seen the movie countless times.

For those not in the know, the play introduces us to Ralphie Parker, both as a 9-year-old in the 1940s (Liam Loughridge) and as his older self (Blake R. York), acting as narrator and all-seeing eye guiding us through a particularly formative Christmas. Part of the charm of the piece is to hear older Ralphie boil down the experiences of childhood from the benefit of hindsight, but also to see him get wrapped up in his own story as young Ralphie is confronted with dull reality and fantastical imaginations.

All that little Ralphie wants for this Christmas is an official Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action range model air rifle - and that's a mouthful that gets incanted many times during the course of the show. The only things standing in his way are his parents (Heidi Walworth-Horn and Andrew Fry, as Mother and The Old Man, respectively), who dutifully inform him that he's bound to shoot his eye out with that thing.

With the quest for the BB gun serving as the thread that connects everything, the rest of A Christmas Story is made up of vignettes highlighting the various ups and downs of growing up, including the simultaneous joy and pain of learning curse words, the tentativeness of your first crush, and the outsized way you perceive your neighbors' scary dogs.

This is an ensemble piece in the truest sense, with even young Ralphie taking the backseat to world-building scenes featuring schoolmates, teachers, and the interplay between the parents. It must be said, though, that if there were an MVP in this production, it would be Blake R. York, pulling double duty as adult Ralphie and as Technical Director/Master Carpenter. As an actor, he anchors the play with by far the most dialogue, and he's done wonders with the set design, featuring a rotating stage that allows the story to seamlessly transition between several different locations, and some creative props to help define the various fantasy sequences.

As an outsider to this story, I'd say that having some distance from your childhood helps to better appreciate some of the more difficult dialogue and the more nuanced observations, but there were a good deal of kids in attendance. While this may not be a production for all ages, necessarily, it does a fine job of transporting you back to a more innocent time, where getting just what you want for Christmas could be the most important thing.

A CHRISTMAS STORY, through Dec. 20, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., $20-$24, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, 253.272.2281

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