Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Nice Family Gathering"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"A Nice Family Gathering"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Granite Theatre is "A Nice Family Gathering". A man dies unexpectedly, without having told his wife of 35 years that he loved her, something he neglected to tell her when he was alive. The problem is, she can't see or hear him. Dad returns to Earth to ask his son Carl to deliver that message for him. While Carl sees his father clearly, none of the other characters are able to see him at all. The show takes place at the first Christmas since Dad passed away. The Lundeen family gathers together:Carl, his older brother Michael, a doctor, his wife, Jill and their sister, Stacy have come to spend the holiday with their mother. Unbeknownst to her family, Mom has invited Jerry Myers to be her dinner date. Jerry was Dad's golfing buddy. Michael needs to talk to Mom about family matters, Jill is on fertility drugs and bursts into tears unexpectedly and Stacy has a surprise announcement that shocks the family. Director David Jepson not only stars in this show but directs it, too. He casts each of these seven roles beautifully and mixes the comic and poignant moments together perfectly in this show about sibling rivalry. Many gags abound in this well written and heart warming Christmas show.

David also creates the gorgeous indoor and outdoor set for the show. Barbara Collins is the hard working stage manager while Brian Olsen runs the lights and sound. Beth Jepson wins the audience over with her portrayal of this seemingly absent minded woman. She handles the comic and dramatic moments with ease. Beth is wonderful as the scatter-brained and bubbly mother. One of the running gags is that she mixes up the name of the holiday they are celebrating and can never remember her daughter's name. Some of her funny one liners include: I'm as hungry as a platypus. The audience loves her crazy antics. However it is the dramatic, heartwarming ending that the audience can relate to.

David plays Beth's deceased husband in the show. Why did he return to earth? Will he make a difference in the lives of his family members? David delivers the goods whether he is insulting Carl, passing out on the floor when he hears his daughter is pregant, gets bored with conversations and quips about his former golfing partner. David has some of the funniest one liners in the show. But it is the tearful resolution that will leave you in tears. John Cillino plays Carl who is the only who can see and hear Dad. Their exchanges are hilarious and give the show a "Blithe Spirit" or "Bewitched" type feel to it. His comments about writing a newspaper column and repartee with the other characters include many comical moments. John handles the dramatic side during the show at the realization scene which tugs at your heartstrings. Be sure to tell your family that you love them while you can is the important message of this show. This message really hits home during the Christmas season. Carl finds out his father really cared for him by keeping a scrapbook of his columns from the newspaper.

The other cast members do wonderful jobs with their roles, too. Bill Martuscello plays the older brother who has a secret that he hides from the family. His funniest line is I hope I don't become someone's bitch in prison. Rochelle Weinreich, a gorgeous brunette, is Jill, Michael's constantly crying wife. She can't understand why he doesn't pay more attention to her. She is very funny in this role especially in her drunken scene. Danielle Conti, another pretty brunette, plays the long suffering sister, Stacy who only wants to be noticed and appreciated by the family. She reveals that she is pregnant and has another secret she reveals during the show. Danielle is funny as Stacy. Rounding out the cast is Greg Blivens as the wise cracking Jerry. He plays this uncomfortable guest at the party who is always cracking bad jokes. When he is embarrassed, runs out to buy cheese whiz. So for a heartwarming show, be sure to catch "A Nice Family Gathering", it will definitely brighten up your Christmas holiday with its touching message.

"A Nice Family Gathering" (2 to 23 December)
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY MA

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