Family reunions are always memorable. However, when the Lundeen family gets together for Thanksgiving dinner in The Playhouse’s upcoming show, A Nice Family Gathering, by Phil Olson, the meal won’t be the main event.
It’ll be the hilarious and heart-warming chaos that erupts when conflicting family members try to cope with each other’s differences and a ghost! The play is set just months after Dad has died, and the usual tensions among family members are higher than ever before the meal is even served.
Brothers Michael and Carl have never seen eye to eye, the former a successful doctor, the latter an easy-going would-be writer working odd jobs.
Then there’s Stacy, the younger daughter, who is always ignored and feels left out of the picture. Add to that Michael’s wife, Jill, who’s going through an emotional time because she can’t get pregnant. And Mom is struggling with the pressures of trying to hold the family together long enough to enjoy a civil dinner.
There’s an elephant in the room, so to speak.
The chances of this nice family gathering succeeding are blown out of the water when Dad’s ghost decides to make an appearance, not to haunt anyone, but to try to direct the proceedings and settle some old scores.
To complicate matters, he only appears to one of the family members, son Carl, who’s charged with the task of helping him get his wish. Dad and Carl’s battle of wits, as they attempt to accomplish this, makes for an hilarious and touching experience for all, especially after the arrival of another guest that Mom has told no one about.
“This show has everything: comedy, conflict, a great story and very strong characters,” says Artistic Director Donnie Bowes. “I think the comedy comes from the pressure that the characters are under to get along. There’s also the ghost of Dad who is, himself, a very funny character. And there are some touching family moments that the audience will relate to and enjoy.”
Ensuring that Dad’s ghost gets a star appearance is Doug Tangney, in a role that Bowes says the Playhouse favourite was born to play.
Tangney was earlier seen in Hotbed Hotel and has been enjoyed by audiences in shows ranging from the hilarious grand-dad in Having Hope at Home to starring roles in The Sensuous Senator, Weekend Comedy and many more. His character of Dad’s ghost will square off with another popular Playhouse actor, Richard Bauer, who plays son Carl.
Bauer recently directed Wife Begins at Forty and earlier in the season starred in The Foursome.
Sparks will also fly between Bauer and Jamie Williams who plays brother Michael. Williams was recently seen in Here on the Flight Path and has starred in such hits as Run For Your Wife and There Goes The Bride.
The role of Mom is in the talented hands of veteran actress Linda Goranson seen in such Playhouse shows as Not Now, Darling and The Christmas Express. Goranson is currently commuting to rehearsal from Belleville where she is starring in Calendar Girls.
Sister Stacy is played by another familiar Playhouse face, Liz Gilroy, who joins the cast after a busy summer acting, directing and choreographing at various Ontario Summer Theatres. Last seen here in Dear Santa, Gilroy will star in Elf: The Musical at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre later this year.
Rounding out the cast is Kate Gordon, who returns to UCP from last year’s Not Now, Darling, to play Jill, and Don Ciaschini, last seen in Maggie’s Getting Married, who will play special guest Jerry.
John Thompson, who has designed several Playhouse productions including Wife Begins at Forty and On Golden Pond to name just a few, created the set.
Donnie Bowes will be directing this production.
A Nice Family Gathering runs September 6 to September 30. The shows are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets and information call 613-543-3713, or 1-877-550-3650 or go to www.uppercanadaplayhouse.com