It's challenging to adapt a play from a beloved film. The trick is to maintain the charm of the original while avoiding a direct rehash. Theatre IV's production of Philip Grecian's adaptation of "A Christmas Story" meets this challenge, providing wonderful holiday entertainment for the film's fans and theatergoers alike. The production concept is fresh, the performances are solid and the children are dependably cute.
If you've never seen the film version of "A Christmas Story" (which is broadcast on TNT 24 hours straight every Christmas), the plot concerns Ralphie (charmingly played for Theatre IV by Eric Pastore), a boy growing up in 1938 Indiana whose greatest desire is to get a BB gun for Christmas.
The surreal feel of Mercedes Schaum's set design blends nicely with Ralphie's child-view of the world, pulling the audience into the humor of the show with wacky-shaped windows and schoolroom set pieces.
All of the adult actors vie with the children for a piece of this outrageous production, with standout performances by Julie Fulcher as Ralphie's mother and Jacqueline Jones as Miss Shields, his teacher. If the major scenes have long been burned into your memory, it shouldn't disappoint when Fulcher confronts the infamous leg lamp, burying her head in the couch cushions to scream in disgust at the placement of the thing in the front window by her proud husband. Jones is obviously having a ball as the prim Miss Shields, giving a scene-stopping wicked-witch scream during a fantasy sequence.
The kids are all great too, but Pastore especially commands the stage. He wins repeated applause with his beautifully enunciated recitation of the infamous Red Ryder BB gun line -- "an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time" and carries the show like the pro he is fast becoming.
"A Christmas Story" is the best Christmas present theater audiences could wish for. But remember that it closes on the 23rd, just before Ted Turner uses it to take over TV. S
Theatre IV's "A Christmas Story" at the Empire Theatre runs through Dec. 23. 114 W. Broad St. Tickets are $24-$32. Call 344-8040 or visit www.theatreivrichmond.org.