"A Christmas Story" - Philip Grecian - The Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut at the Bradley Playhouse (Putnam, CT.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of Philip Grecian's adaptation of "A CHRISTMAS STORY" now playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through December 17, 2023. Photo Credit Alan Marcus)




By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724


“The air would crack and sing and power lines would creak under caked ice. Christmas was on its way. Lovely, beautiful, glorious Christmas - around which the entire kid year revolved.”
 

                                                                                          - ("Ralph")  / Philip Grecian     

Theatre Of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. 

at the Bradley Playhouse 

Presents 

"A CHRISTMAS STORY"

Adapted for the stage by Philip Grecian 

Based on the 1983 motion picture written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, and on the book "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" by Jean Shepherd.

Directed by Madeline Jaaskela and Jeremy Woloski

Cast Includes: Robert Ellis as "Ralph"; Jacob Seaman as "Ralphie"; Roy Simmons as "Old Man"; Maegan Kelley as "Mother"; Jeffrey McAteer as "Randy"; Adelaide Beams as "Esther Jane"; Ri'Niyah Couillard as "Esther Jane"; Eva Ferreira as "Helen"; Melanie Garcia as "Helen"; David Evan Bellman as "Flick"; Paetyn Middleton as "Schwartz"; Caleb Hanley as "Scut Farcus/Black Bart"; Jim McAnneny as "Santa Claus/Tree Lot Owner/Delivery Man"; Christine Crugnola Petruniw as "Miss Shields."

Ensemble/Elves - Melanie Garcia, David Evan Bellman, Ri'Niyah Couillard, Paetyn Middleton, Caleb Hanley, William A. Alexson, Amy Ferreira, Jeremy Woloski.

Additional Creative Team:

Stage Manager - Marissa Phaneuf; Assistant Stage Manager - William A. Alexson; Artistic Committee Liaison - William Corriveau; Production Manager - Jeanne Foley; Production Coordinator - Kathleen Atwood; Set Design - Jeremy Woloski; Set Painters - Anna Kate Werge, Ella Woloski, Jeremy Woloski, Roy Simmons, Sandra Shepard, David Abbamonte, Shannon Middleton, Jaelyn Middleton, Maegan Kelley, Alan Jaaskela, Will Alexson, Amy Ferreira, Eva Ferreira, Christine Crugnola Petruniw, Jim McAnneny, Madeline Jaaskela; Costumers - Paisley Gothreau and Anna Kate Werge; Costume Consultant - Teal Griswold; Makeup - Anna Kate Werge, Jessica Galeckas and Isabella Nichisti; Props - Bonnie Theriault and Melinda Collelo; Lighting and Sound Design - Jeremy Woloski; Light Operators - Jeremy Woloski and Evan Bellman; Sound Operator - Jeremy Woloski and Amanda Bellman; Spotlight Operator - David Abbamonte; Stage Crew - Elyse McAteer, Christopher McAteer, Ella Woloski and Caleb Hanley; Set Construction - David Abbamonte, Sandra Shepard, Jim McAnneny, Ollia Harrison, Shawn Harrison, Marissa Phaneuf, Timothy Hubbard, Roy Simmons, Jen Beams, Wladimir Petruniw, Christine Crugnola Petruniw, Akan Jaaskela, Madeline Jaaskela and Jeremy Woloski; Photography - Alan Marcus; Volunteer Coordinator - Cindy Beckman; Business Manager - Kristi-Lyn Sadosky. 

Performances:

December 1, 2023 through December 17, 2023

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times) 

THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE, 30 Front Street (Route 44) in Putnam, CT.  

TICKETS       

All seats reserved. Reservations may be made with a major credit card online at www.thebradleyplayhouse.org or by calling 860-928-7887.   

COVID 19 PROTOCOLS

Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Ringing in the current holiday season, the Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut (TNECT) at the Bradley Playhouse gifts to us the charming, delightfully nostalgic play, "A CHRISTMAS STORY." 

Adapted for the stage by Jean Shepherd and Philip Grecian, "A CHRISTMAS STORY" is based on the motion picture "A CHRISTMAS STORY" also written by Shepherd with Leigh Brown and Bob Clark. It is also based in part on the book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Shepherd

While there are other versions of the tale, both musical and non-musical, the Philip Grecian adaptation, under the direction of Madeline Jaaskela and Jeremy Woloski, is a faithful rendering of the 1983 classic yuletide film, unfolding much like a love letter to the movie. 

There is also an expert, fine attention to detail throughout the production on multiple technical levels. More on that later.

A big part of the ongoing appeal of "A CHRISTMAS STORY" is how the story does not poke fun at its central characters but rather celebrates them and a simpler time in middle America.

For those younger parents and children who have never seen the movie, there might be some elements which will take them completely off guard - such as a child basically seeking a weapon from Santa for Christmas and parents seemingly okie dokie with it. 

There are also mentions of a "Little Orphan Annie" character, "Punjab," who slices off the heads of Annie's oppressors. Hello...what? There are no lyrics for that anywhere in the "ANNIE" musical.

For those who might be taken back by these elements, among others, keep in mind that "A CHRISTMAS STORY" was written in 1983 about American life in 1940 (technically, 1938) - so accepting this premise will help allow you to better enjoy the story and move past those reservations.

Also, a word to the wise: There are some "unusual expletives" used in the show (mostly spoken in some kind of gibberish-y English but you can get their meaning, no problem) but any 'foul language' is applied only in context to the scenes. 

Even though the show is set in an extremely cold climate, "A CHRISTMAS STORY" is an irresistible play, reminiscent of a time that is pure Americana but can still warm hearts during today’s holiday season.

(Photo: Christine Crugnola Petruniw as "Miss Shields" and her students (left to right, front to back): Ri'Niyah Coullard as "Esther Jane," Eva Ferreira as "Helen," David Evan Bellman as "Flick," Adelaide Beams as "Esther Jane," Paetyn Middleton as "Schwartz," Melanie Garcia as "Helen" from "A CHRISTMAS STORY" playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through December 17, 2023. Photo Credit Alan Marcus) 

It is close to Christmas Eve in the small, snow covered Depression-era town of Hohman, Indiana, as recalled by Older Ralphie Parker (Robert Ellis III), the show’s autobiographical narrator, who also recollects how his younger self was more frantic than festive during this time. 

Ellis as Older Ralphie owns this show, having an impeccable sense of timing and facial expressions that help him to propel the story forward without falling into trying to convey any of the material as parody.

 Older Ralphie introduces us to Young Ralphie (Jacob Seaman), who has to deal with a bully Scut Farkas (Caleb Hanley) during the holidays and, because of what Young Ralphie wants for Christmas, he really doesn't need the added pressure of a bully.

Seaman as Young Ralphie gives a fine performance, portraying the young boy as a typical young kid of that era and one who wears horn-rimmed glasses, has unrelenting motivation and undaunted determination.

Young Ralphie also contends with his younger brother, Randy (Jeffrey McAteer), who keeps disappearing in unsafe places or wrapped up in multilayered clothing, looking more bubble wrapped than bundled up, all to the point he cannot lower his arms. 

McAteer and all the young performers who play classmates of Young Ralphie (among other characters) deserve high praise (and extra holiday cookies) for their commendable performances.

We also are introduced to Ralphie’s and Randy’s Mother (Maegan Kelley) and Father, aka “The Old Man” (Roy Simmons) who are embroiled in an ongoing disagreement over a certain contest prize the father has won. 

Kelley and Simmons, as Ralphie’s parents, are both terrific, complimenting one other extremely well. Simmons especially appears to be having a great time with some of the show’s funniest moments. 

(Photo: William Alexson as an "Elf," Jim McAnneny as "Santa Claus" and Caleb Hanley as "Elf/Scut Farkas" in a scene from "A CHRISTMAS STORY" playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through December 17, 2023. Photo Credit Alan Marcus) 

There are many recurring themes and running gags in the show, including:

Several neighboring dogs, an uncooperative furnace, those aforementioned "unusual expletives" used by Ralphies’ father, the ongoing family dinner of meat loaf and red cabbage, and more.

Mostly, though, we are completely tuned into Young Ralph, who is obsessed by wanting two things: 

A secret decoder ring offered by the radio program “Little Orphan Annie” and, most crucially - yes, here it comes, say it out loud, together now - “an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time!” 

You really didn't think you were NOT going to see that at some point in this review, did you?

The response of “You’ll put your eye out” gets so overused the payoff near the end of the show seems far to foreshadowed that the surprise ultimately gets lost. 

Similar to the movie, the above one sentence is uttered repeatedly throughout the entire two hours and 10 minutes of the play and turns "A CHRISTMAS STORY" into a cautionary tale about being careful of what you ask Santa for at Christmas.

Other notable adult performances include Jim McAnneny as the department store "Santa Claus," the "Christmas Tree Lot Owner" and as the infamous 'leg lamp' "Delivery Man" and Christine Crugnola Petruniw as Young Ralphie's teacher, "Miss Shields."

(Photo: Maegan Kelley as "Mother," Jacob Seaman as "Ralphie," Jeffrey McAteer as "Randy," Roy Simmons as "The Old Man" and Robert Ellis III as "Ralph" from "A CHRISTMAS STORY" playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through December 17, 2023. Photo Credit Alan Marcus) 

On a technical level, the set is perfect in every detail, which includes a high volume of period-specific props and set pieces. 

The set design by Woloski successfully establishes the time and place, and all scene transitions are performed seamlessly and surreptitiously by the stage crew.

Lighting and sound cues are executed with expert precision. The equally high volume of costuming and make-up required for the two-act play marvelously supplements the surroundings as needed. 

In the end, between his family and friends, Young Ralphie learns Christmas isn't what about you get...but rather about what you already have.

"A CHRISTMAS STORY" continues at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam until December 17th and is a holiday treat to be sure.

Coming up in January, 2024 at the Bradley Playhouse is the comedy, "DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER" by Marc Camoletti and Robin Hawdon. For tickets and more information, contact the Bradley Playhouse at # 860-928-7887 or visit them online at www.thebradleyplayhouse.org.

Approximately two hours, 10 minutes with one intermission 

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 

@MetrmagReviews

@Theatre_Critics 


ABOUT THE SHOW

"A CHRISTMAS STORY" is a full-length holiday comedy by Philip Grecian

Based on the movie of the same name, Humorist Jean Shepherd’s memoir of growing up in the Midwest of the 1940s. 

"A CHRISTMAS STORY" follows young Ralphie Parker in his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun under the tree for Christmas. 

Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher and even Santa Claus himself at Higbee’s Department Store. 

The consistent response: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”  

All the elements from the beloved motion picture are here, including the family’s temperamental exploding furnace; Scut Farkas, the school bully; the triple-dog-dare to lick a freezing flagpole; the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin; outrageous pink bunny pajamas; the infamous leg lamp; Ralphie’s fantasy scenarios and more.  

ABOUT THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE

THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE is a 117 year-old vaudeville theatre in the heart of the Putnam antiques and restaurant district in the “Quiet Corner” of Northeastern Connecticut.  Since 1991, THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE has been managed by the volunteers of The Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. (TNECT).  


ABOUT THEATRE OF NORTHEASTERN CONNECTICUT (TNECT)

TNECT produces eight main season shows per year and a number of special fundraising events for The Bradley Playhouse Restoration Fund. TNECT’s mission is to produce and sponsor quality theatre and entertainment for the residents of Northeastern Connecticut and the surrounding areas, to encourage the development of creativity through the support of local artists, and to support education and hands-on experience in the creation, direction, and production of theatre and the performing arts.

THE BRADLEY PLAYHOUSE

30 Front Street

P.O. Box 71

Putnam, CT 06260-1942

www.thebradleyplayhouse.org