St. Albert Dinner Theatre
Nov. 9, 14 to 16 and 21 to 23
Kinsmen Banquet Hall
47 Riel Dr.
Tickets: $55 to $60. Call 780-222-0102 or stalberttheatre.com
Frigid temperatures are barrelling in from the north, but St. Albert Dinner Theatre’s season opener titled Homecoming was a warm hit with Thursday night audiences.
Written by Saskatchewan playwright Leeanne Minogue, Homecoming zeroes in on the tricky relationships that develop within a family unit and how outside forces pressure unwanted but necessary change.
While this description might sound grim, Minogue crafts a hilarious script that is brought to life by a cast of gifted actors.
Saskatchewan farmer Jerry Wilson has tilled the land for over three decades. He’s a salt-of-the-earth guy who sees the vast prairie skyline every day and whose primary read is probably the magazine Country Guide.
As with most farmers operating a risky business, Jerry has thrift built into his DNA. He’d rather try to fix an alternator than buy a new part, and discussion of replacing a rusted 30-year-old truck is out of the question.
Taking a break from farm responsibilities, Jerry goes spring skiing with buddies. On a dare, he shoots down a black diamond and wraps himself around a tree.
He’s always planned on passing the farm to his son, Greg. The broken leg spurs Jerry and his wife, Marlene, to buy a town home in nearby Stony Valley while Greg moves in from the city to handle farm affairs.
As a father, Jerry wants his son to take over the farm. But even as he stumbles on crutches, Jerry is unable to let go. Within a few weeks, father and son are butting heads like two angry bulls charging each other and Greg storms off.
Jerry is loaded with pride. He’s proud of an inherited family legacy, proud of a farm expansion and definitely proud of his family. It’s also this very pride that prevents him from sharing his failings.
To keep up appearances that Greg and his wife Andrea still live at the farm, Jerry invests his energy into operating the farm. He fixes machinery, weeds the garden and bakes pies for a party. Unfortunately, his stubbornness coupled with a series of miscalculations turn him into the butt of a town joke.
Character actor Rob Beeston seamlessly morphs into Jerry Wilson, a sweet, endearing, loudmouth goofball who piles one priceless gaffe on top of another. The weight of the play rests on Beeston’s shoulders and he nails each joke even as he hobbles across the stage with hunched shoulders.
The role of Marlene, the patient wife, was made for Christine Gold. Marlene is the balance in her family’s life, and her even-tempered and at times indulgent personality keeps the Wilsons on an even keel.
That’s not to say Marlene isn’t critical or gossipy about her past friend Norma, played by Anne-Marie Smythe. Marlene and Norma were once best friends, but after a curling altercation, the two refused to speak to one other. Like Jerry, Norma fears change and Smythe plays her character as beautifully sassy and vulnerable.
Rohit Kataria as Greg is the dynamic voice of the future, part of a breed of new agriculturalists who are finding ways to feed the world while keeping old traditions alive. And Monica Lefurgey as Susan, Marlene and Jerry’s daughter, embodies traditional values with modern ideas.
Unlike many fluffy dinner theatre comedies, Homecoming embraces a series of deeper themes beneath the hilarity. An intellectually and emotionally rich production, it leaves you with a feel-good sensation and a smile on your lips.
Homecoming runs Nov. 9, 14 to 16 and 21 to 23 at Kinsmen Banquet Hall.