OLDEST SON MICHAEL (Mike White)

‘A Nice Family Gathering’ looks at funny family dynamics

We've all had them. Those nice family gatherings where the event ends up being radically different than what we anticipated.

We’ve all had them. Those nice family gatherings where the event ends up being radically different than what we anticipated.

Maybe Aunt Sally has an extra glass of sherry and gets out of hand or grandpa loses his dentures in the mashed potatoes. Or even worse, the new daughter-in-law burns the Thanksgiving turkey.

But what if it’s the one-year anniversary of dad’s death and mom shows up with a date?

That’s a taste of what happens in Phil Olsen’s A Nice Family Gathering.

Courtenay Little Theatre is presenting the comedy/drama at the Sid Williams Theatre between Oct. 4 and 12.

To celebrate the launch of their 2013/2014 season, CLT is holding a pre-show gala reception in the theatre lobby from 6:30 to 7:15 pm before opening night on Oct. 4.

“People will be shocked at how close to home this play is,” says director Ronda Sproule. “There’s something in it that relates to most family situations. I think people will be pointing at each other and laughing.”

“It’s a well-rounded play with lots of emotional peaks and valleys,” she adds. “And perfect timing that we’re putting it on right before Thanksgiving.”

A Nice Family Gathering is an award-winning comedy about family dynamics.

Mom’s having trouble with her memory. The three adult children span the gamut from successful doctor, struggling writer and a daughter who’s emotionally on the periphery.

“It’s a typical family with the type of dysfunctional behaviour you find in every family,” says Sproule. “Throughout the play the characters are drawn together to discover aspects of each other and themselves and how love is sometimes shown but the signals aren’t picked up. It’s a warm, funny play and poignant at times.”

Initially Sproule had some concerns about casting as rehearsals started in August and finding men the right age is often a challenge.

“In the end, it just all fell into place,” she says. “People contacted me or were suggested by others. And the whole cast has an incredible sense of connection and are terrific at creating those special moments. It’s not unusual for everyone to get the giggles or tear up during a rehearsal.”

As well as being the one-year anniversary of dad’s death, the play also leads up to Sproule’s 20 year anniversary with Courtenay Little Theatre in November.

“I was new to the community and went to see CLT’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and was so impressed I joined the drama club,” she explains. “Then I took a directing workshop with Tony Arnold and discovered my passion.”

“I love making a play come alive and visualizing all the parts that need to come together,” she explains. “I enjoy the process from first concept to final product and finding creative ways to deal with challenges.

“But most of all, I like the way people come together to create something for other people to enjoy — that’s what community theatre is all about.”

Even Sproule’s day job is related to the arts, as she’s been lounge manager of the Sid Williams Theatre for eight years.

A Nice Family Gathering starts at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Oct. 6. Tickets are available at the Sid.

CLT also offers a discount ticket package of $5 off each performance for patrons attending their fall (A Nice Family Gathering), Christmas (The Drowsy Chaperone) and spring (On Golden Pond) productions. The discount package must be purchased by Oct. 12 and is available at the Sid Williams Theatre.

For more information visit www.sidwillimamstheatre.com or

www.courtenaylittletheatre.com.

Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section.

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