As directed by Paul Dake, MAKING GOD LAUGH wrought tears of laughter from opening night’s audience at DCP, an “amen” from one audience member, and standing ovation at the end! Some shed tears of understanding as well, for interspersed between the fast shot one-liners, ripping wit, and uproariously funny repartee is the tender truth about many a family gathering; they can be rough at times.
The play takes place over the span of 30 years, and four family get-togethers, beginning with Thanksgiving dinner 1980 where we first meet the matriarchal Ruthie (Barbara Hannevig), patient father of household, Bill (John Reardon), and three siblings who have recently left the nest, budding actress Maddie (Liz McDonald), former high school football hero Richard (Anthony Marsala) and Thomas (Brent Anders), pride of his mother, a priest in training. We witness, while chuckling, changes in the lives of the adult children over each passing decade dinner, as well as changes within the family’s dynamics as the parents grow older. Toss in some “fantasia” dip, a few sibling zingers, overbearing mother, a pound of pride and presupposition, a dash of dysfunction and you have a recipe for a sitcom style family disaster. Beware, however, playwright Sean Grennan’s opening scenes, abundant with puns upon plans and future trends are a set up, sucker punch style, to get straight to the heart of some very poignant matters. Life is filled with change, and adaptability is a key component to living. To make plans, is to make God laugh…
Peppered by popular culture quips about 8-track players, the real estate bubble, dot.coms, Enron investments and Y2K (or KY2 as Ruthie calls it), changes in costume, make-up and demeanor, 30 years is encompassed and accomplished in one performance. Barbara Hannevig portrays Ruthie as ruler of the roost, but also blends into her character a side that evokes empathy. Hannevig’s skillful stage depiction of Ruthie’s decline in later years, incorporates minute behavioral detail, especially in the “Easter” scene where Ruthie appears reborn in “second childishness” as Maddie quotes from the monologue “All the World’s a Stage” from Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT. Maddie, delightfully done with flare and marvelous expression by Liz McDonald, is at loggerheads with her mother, Ruthie, who pecks at her like a rabid mother-hen about her chosen profession, her weight, and not providing grandchildren. Richard, called “Ricky” against his wishes by his sister Maddie, who has issues with her brother’s choices, such as his wardrobe, hair and drinking, as wittily portrayed by Anthony Marsala, is always taking advice from “a guy he met” and gaining guffaws from the audience as pay-off for his performance. Thomas, priest and pride of all, is ‘done proud’ by Brent Anders, who maintains his character’s integrity intact through some startling story changes, one-two puns and role reversals.
Bill, loving father and husband, played with wonderful ease and presence by John Reardon, is the show’s straight man; stalwart, kind, doing what is necessary to keep all together.
The show’s director, Paul Dake, also composed and performed the lovely original music for the production. Stage space is well utilized, and the set (Paul and Alice Dake) serves very well as it is attractive, but not detractive; a nicely achieved balance. Costumes (Angela Hoerner) are great fun to see, especially as the fashions change over the 30 year story span.
If you want to experience some serious internal jogging, belly laugh style, head on over to DCP to see MAKING GOD LAUGH!
MAKING GOD LAUGH
by Sean Grennan
Directed by Paul Dake
May 30 – June 14, 2014
795 Ridge Road
Telford, PA 18969