One Girl, Two Cities

Review: A Christmas Story at Lyric Arts

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Nostalgia is an interesting thing. It gives us a sense of longing for the past, when we were kids and had few cares in the world except figuring out things like the perfect gift. Many of us choose to focus on the good times we had, like positive memories with our families, especially those centered around holidays.

The movie A Christmas Story is nostalgic for many people, for reasons like those mentioned. They remember watching it every year as a family tradition. They enjoy quoting the line, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” They remember a fun, traditional 1940s family.

And if you’re a fan, this is exactly what you’ll get if you go see the play A Christmas Story at Lyric Arts.  Shana Eisenberg plays the stay-at-home Mother who always keeps tabs on where the boys in the family are, including her manchild husband, played by Bill Williamson. He’s goofy and outrageous as much as she is sensible and go with the flow.

Nick Menzhuber walks us through the show as the older Ralph, looking back on Clinton Kish-Bailey as his younger, imaginative Ralphie self. And there’s the adorable Huxley Westemeier who plays Ralphie’s younger brother Randy who gets to fling oatmeal around the set and hide under the sink, in true kid fashion.

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Photo by Scott Pakudaitis

In spite of the laughs the show provides and the cheerful holiday feeling in anticipation of Christmas night, A Christmas Story is dated and leaves much to be desired. Mother is obviously quite smart, but anytime she expresses her intelligence, her husband shushes her. In the end, she tells him he’s always right and she continues to submit to him.

There’s an ongoing bit about the sweet and lovable Flick (Logan Schuneman) who continually has a sore arm because the school bully beats up on him so often, he never gets a chance to recover. And this is a comedic part of the show. Let’s think about that for a minute.

In the end, what the story comes down to is that Ralphie spends the whole show dreaming about getting a gun for Christmas. I understand the nostalgia of the movie, but when we present a show like this, what kind of social responsibility does a theater have? How can a theater still bring this story to the public but provide context in relation to today’s society? As much as director Matt McNabb wanted to stay true to the movie, I wish these topics were taken into more careful consideration.

Lyric Arts is well loved by the community and in talking with the adult members of the cast afterward, they obviously have so much affection for the company. But considering the wonderful platform, I want to see Lyric Arts push more boundaries and encourage progress, not celebrate the flaws of the past for the sake of nostalgia. (These things have made me anxious to see Silent Sky in January about Henrietta Leavitt, a 19th-century female astronomer.) I struggled with writing this because I also adore Lyric Arts and have had so many positive experiences with the people there, but this is why I want to challenge them to do better because I know they can.

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Shana Eisenberg, Bill Williamson, Nick Menzhuber & Gina Sauer with fellow theater bloggers, photo by Scott Pakudaitis

I enjoyed hanging out with the cast and fellow theater bloggers after the show. We even checked out Brian Proball’s impressively expansive set and listened to some of the cast’s fondest memories of Lyric Arts (including an on-stage proposal story from Shana!). The company really feels like one big family, and they welcomed us so warmly.

A Christmas Story runs through December 18, but tickets are selling fast so if you’re interested, purchase your tickets ASAP. Lyric Arts also presents a “mainly for kids” production of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas in December.

Other bloggers who attended include: Cherry and Spoon, Twin Cities Stages, Artfully Engaging, and No Filter Reviews.

A Christmas Story

November 18 – December 18

Lyric Arts

420 East Main Street

Anoka, MN

www.lyricarts.org

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