by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
You may still be poking between the sofa cushions to find any left-over Halloween candy, but aren’t you ready for some old-fashioned Christmas nostalgia?
Go to Good Company’s 2nd Space to see Dad’s Christmas Miracle, where young Conner Murphy (Colin Clark-Bracewell) takes us back to the late 50s and his dreams of getting a go-cart for Christmas, the Christmas program that went closer to the Three Stooges than the Three Wise Men, a brother and sister (Nathan Fennacy and Christy Hathaway) who are less sibling rivalry than Family Feud, and the crisply-remembered teacher (Laura Beery) who constantly corrects his memory and posture.
It isn’t as outrageous as A Christmas Story, and it doesn’t have as memorable a group of characters as the Herdmans in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but it’s nice in a very nice way. A lot of it could have really happened, or at least been remembered that way through the it-ought-to-have-been filter of creative memory. Even if it didn’t really happen that way, it would have been comforting to have Jason Hurst and Debi Ruud as Dad and Mom.
Some productions divide the Conner role into Young Conner and Grandpa Conner, but GCP and director Elizabeth Stoeckel have given Clark-Bracewell the load of both performing and narrating. Recently featured as Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird, he is gently ingratiating. Aiding, abetting, and complicating Conner’s adventures are Samuel Linkowski and Marty Margolin as the boy’s pals, Neil and Tater. Linkowski gives a confidently-nerdish performance (in the tradition of Barry Gordon) as the friend who knows everything, with Margolin the weak mental link in their chain of friendship who gets some of the best lines.
Cheryl Decker gets to pass through and steal every scene in sight as the fruitcake-bearing (and a heavy load it is), cat’s-eye-glasses-wearing neighbor with a bubble hair-do that deserves its own curtain call. Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed, queen of the costume shop, attires the cast in clothes that could have come right out of an album of faded Kodachromes, and David Pierce’s set screams of a world before color TV.
One of the treats of this holiday confection is the traditional turn-off-your-cell-phones speech. Instead of being delivered by a house manager, it is given to Beery as Miss McLaughlin, wielding a ruler she seems eager to slap across a palm while she sets a mood that encourages us to travel into a past that isn’t Father Knows Best, but Father does have his moments of glory.
Dad’s Christmas Miracle plays through December 23, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Good Company Players’ 2nd Space is at 928 E. Olive Avenue in Fresno. Tickets are $16 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Contact the box office at 559-266-0660 or 800-371-4747. More info on their KRL event page.