Review: ‘A Christmas Story’ by Rockville Little Theatre at the Arts Barn

SMOKE!

That raises the alarm that there’s been another “Clinker” episode from the diabolical furnace in the basement of the Parker home as the Gaithersburg Arts Barn hosts an entirely entertaining and satisfying rendition of A Christmas Story, presented by Rockville Little Theatre.

A Christmas Story, presented by Rockville Little Theatre, plays through December 9 at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg. Photo by Aaron Skolnik.
A Christmas Story, presented by Rockville Little Theatre, plays through December 9 at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg. Photo by Aaron Skolnik.

All the memorable icons are present: Flick (Malcolm Friel) with his tongue stuck to a frozen pole; Ralphie (Logan Baker) shooting his eye out (almost); Ralphie’s younger brother Randy (Nick Griffith) stranded in layers of winter outerwear; the slide at Goldblatz department store ejecting kids who have visited Santa. Not a trick was missed! A dozen kids and a handful of grown-ups succeed in creating the illusion that you might just be watching the TV classic without commercial interruption.

Assorted and illustrious expletives are exuberantly uttered by Ralphie’s dad (Dean Fiala) at every one of life’s myriad disappointments. Ralphie’s mom (Cassandra Redding) masterfully negotiates the frantic pre-holiday itinerary with poise and grace – never missing a chance to sustain and nourish her family with “meatloaf & red cabbage.”

The notorious bully, Scut Farkas (William Bouley) gets his comeuppance at the hands of Helen Weathers (Olivia Skolnik), and her friend Esther Jane Alberry (Allison Howlett) is smitten with Ralphie’s Range Rider heroics and gift-giving skills. Even those “Dang-blang-flabber Bumpus hounds!” next door succeed in disrupting the holiday feast. Ralphie’s BFF Schwartz (Zachary Rittenhousesmith) provides consolation when teacher Miss Shields (Miriam Bowden) issues Ralphie a low grade which is certain to crush Ralphie’s wish to receive a coveted “Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass and a thing that tells time built right into the stock.”

The seamless live narrative delivered by an older Ralph (Jim Camlek) has such panache and monochromatic inflection that every child audience member was literally sitting on the edge of their seat and craning their neck not to miss a moment.

Offstage voice-over elements are convincingly delivered by Director Ken Kemp, Stage Manager Aaron Skolnik, and Cassandra Redding. An exuberant children’s ensemble included Meredith Abramson, Sammy Friel, Jaida Weisel, and Jonah Ogunmadewa. Laura Andruski’s costumes and Mandy Mossman’s makeup talents rivaled any Off-Broadway production.

A Christmas Story, presented by Rockville Little Theatre, plays through December 9 at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg. Photo by Aaron Skolnik.
A Christmas Story, presented by Rockville Little Theatre, plays through December 9 at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg. Photo by Aaron Skolnik.

The radio, step-stool and refrigerator set pieces provide a most realistic period setting – thanks to set designer Bill Brown and Melody Wang’s properties magic. The entire set and its transformation into a 1950s department store were a thoroughly convincing collaboration by Tony Dwyer, Dean Fiala, William Kolodrubetz, David Levin, Ralph Nelson, Nick Radunic, Ellen Ryan and Steve Leshin.

I triple-dog-dare you to see this stunning performance. I’d hate for you to utter “Fudge” if you don’t.

Running Time: Two hours, plus a 15-minute intermission.

A Christmas Story, presented by Rockville Little Theatre, plays through December 9, 2018, at The Gaithersburg Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. For tickets, go online.