Imagine a time, not so long ago, when everyone wasn’t off checking their messages and families would more or less willingly gather around a bulky old tube radio to listen to a good play. It can be argued whether those were better times, but they sure were different.

The folks at the Old Port Playhouse have chosen to stage a production of a radio play — what amounts to a sort of play within a play — of a classic holiday story.

Adapted from the 1946 Frank Capra film by Joe Landry, the Old Port’s retro-production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” again recounts the (apparently perennial) story of how economic problems, exacerbated by greedy bankers, affect the lives of well-intentioned individuals and families. Many have commented on the Dickensian parallels within this story.

Seven actors take the stage in period costumes and read from scripts before three microphones while “On Air” and “Applause” signs cue the audience as to where things stand in the WPPO “broadcast.”

Michael J. Tobin plays the host, narrator and master of sound effects from a perch at the side of the stage. He introduces the actors who play actors playing characters. Jody McColman, for example, plays James Mundy playing George Bailey.

Directed by Whitney Smith, the show moves along nicely, with lots of humorous moments to go along with the main play’s more serious message about remembering what’s truly important in a world that can sometimes get you down.

William McDonough III was particularly noteworthy at Sunday’s matinee as the actor playing the evil Mr. Potter, who seeks, ultimately, to own the whole town where the play is set. He and McColman appeared to be having a lot of fun growling at each other as the action got serious after the intermission.

A cute detail had young Gina Pardi, in her role as Ginger Brichetto, the actress playing a number of children’s roles in the play, mingling with the crowd before the show and offering autographs.

John Mosey, who played the Wizard of Oz at the Playhouse a while back, got another otherworldly role here as his character embodied the angel Clarence. Cheryl Reynolds, Janelle Doak Mosey and Logan Rausch completed the studio cast, taking several roles each.

This setting of the familiar story adds a delightfully nostalgic dimension through which to receive again its important seasonal message. 

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.