The truest line in CAT’s play Making God Laugh refers to the role parents have in shaping their children’s lives.
“You do the best you can, and the birds fly the way they fly,” says Bill (played by Blaine Anderson) to his controlling wife after their three kids don’t live up to her expectations.
It would be nice to hear other relatable references, but they don’t turn up in this uneven dramedy by Sean Grennan, which opened Friday night as a dinner theatre at the Black Knight Inn.
The Central Alberta Theatre production, directed by Erna Soderberg, is longer on caricature than insight or wisdom as it follows the lives of Bill, Ruthie and their adult children as they gather for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Easter from 1980 to today.
When the action begins, the family is transitioning from ungainly ’70s fashions to unflattering ’80s ones. And Ruthie, played with high squeaky voice by Carla Falk (as if the character wasn’t annoying enough), is delighted that her favoured son Tom (David Henderson) is entering the priesthood.
Ruthie is less taken with second son, Rick, a would-be investor. Ruthie won’t stop calling him ‘Rickie,’ even though the former high-school football star, played by Perry Mill, keeps asking her to.
But the brunt of her criticism is saved for daughter Maddie (Meloni Jordan). She picks on everything from Maddie’s weight, to her style, to her choice of an acting career.
If we believed Ruthie only wanted what’s best for her daughter, we might be able to view things from her skewed perspective.
But we only see a mean, petty person until nearly the end of the play — which is too little, too late, whether you’re expecting comedy, or bittersweet drama.
Thankfully, some humour is sprinkled throughout the script — from Rick’s terrible investment instincts (Enron, Yugos, anyone?) to a running joke about Ruthie’s horrible holiday dip, to Maddie’s tart observations.
When asked what Rick’s habit of having a beer and clamato juice for breakfast means, Maddie replies, “alcoholism,” without missing a beat — showing Jordan’s terrific comic timing.
Other cast members also have their moments. While their family connections don’t quite gel until nearly the last scene, Making God Laugh should at least make audience members reflect on what life choices they made that didn’t go exactly to plan …
It runs to Dec. 17.