by Gerry Roe
Amana – Sean McCall, the Creamery’s Artistic Director, includes in each program a letter to the audience in which he may tell us how he chose the play or something about the history of the play and/or playwright. In the letter for Making God Laugh, McCall includes a quote from Woody Allen which gave this play its title. Allen’s version of the familiar idea is very clear: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” The play gives us a clear illustration of this familiar adage by examining thirty years in the life of a suburban family. I think there’s a reason for letting us see what thirty years can produce: thirty is often a magic number as in rain for thirty days and nights, Jesus beginning his career at thirty, etc.
The play made me think seriously about the difficulties of individual personalities eventually coming together as a family unit, and about how easily good intentions can be misunderstood or discounted. Nevertheless, this is a comedy and the director, Janeve West, allows her cast considerable freedom to employ their considerable comedic skills. The entire company not only plays the comedy, they understand it and they trust the script to convey some hard truths.
Four of the five actors will be familiar to Old Creamery audiences. Sean McCall as Richard, the elder son, capitalizes on his enthusiasm for questionable choices. For example, he is demonstrably proud of his salmon-colored car, an American Motors Pacer, a strange little car that may have hastened the demise of the American Motors company. He encourages his siblings to follow investment advice he has received from a man he knows. But the investments are uniformly poor, including a company called Enron. As the year 2000 looms, he is convinced that Y2K will prove disastrous to everyone leading to roving bands of scavengers in search of food and shelter.
Jackie McCall, the middle child and only daughter, Maddie, wants to pursue an unpromising acting career rather than marrying a nice man and giving her mother the grandchildren she craves. Thirty years must go by before she can try to convince her mother that she doesn’t want a man. Without ever quite admitting that she has a female partner, Sandy, she at least manages to convey her sexual preference.
The youngest sibling, Thomas (Travis Smith, making his Old Creamery debut), is a seminary student. Rather prematurely, his mother persists in calling him “Father Tom,” and insists that everyone address him that way. Of course he is called upon to say a blessing over the food—starting with an unappetizing appetizer. Smith more than holds his own with the other actors.
Bill, the father of the family, is first seen preparing the Thanksgiving meal and looking forward to retirement. David Q. Combs manages to convey his love for each of the siblings and for their mother, Ruthie. Combs plays Bill as quietly acquiescent to his domineering wife, but with an inner strength which results in his emergence as the true head of the family.
The final scene finds the family gathered for another holiday, fittingly Easter, a time of rebirth. Ruthie, exquisitely played by Marquetta Senters, coos lovingly over Thomas’s youngest child, completely oblivious to the fact that Thomas is no longer “Father Tom,” but a genuine family man. Senters remains firmly in place as the hub of the family, not diminished at all in spite of her losses. Her condition prompts all family members to reevaluate their relationships and finally, truly, celebrate their holiday gathering.
Each member of the production staff makes a strong contribution to the success of the production. The set design of Marianna Coffey, Costumes by April Bonasera, and Light and Sound Design by Jim Vogt and Bri Atwood make this play expand beyond the limit of a box set and help to make the play a memory that will linger with the audience and promote serious contemplation of our own homes and families.
Making God Laugh runs through May 14.