Tuesday January 23rd 2018

“Making God Laugh”

It is often stated that live theater is supposed to entertain as well as spread a message, and in the the Chicago premiere of “Making God Laugh” written by Sean Grennan, now onstage at Theatre at The Center in Munster, we have a play that does just that. This production that is produced along with First Folio Theatre, we are given a heartwarming comedy about a Catholic family and their lives over a period from 1980 through present day in four scenes, each ten years apart. Grennan is a local boy ( Oak Park) and to have hos work play in the area with two theaters involved, is a delight for him.

The title of the play is inspired by the Woody Allen joke ” If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” and so we follow this family through the ups and downs of their years after leaving the nest. Jimmy ( the always reliable Craig Spidle) and his Ruthie ( a wonderful and heartwarming performance by Peggy Roeder, are empty nesters, and at each major holiday, their children come home to visit. During these four time periods, 1980, 1990, The Millennium and today we see the many changes that take place in the lives of each child and the parents as well as the times, themselves. The set is the same through all four scenes, their home ( designed with just the right touch for a middle class home in suburbia by Angie Weber-Miller.

Director William Pullinsi, a man who has been through these time periods, is able to bring out the best of what was happening in the world and the changes in people caused by the world around them. The three children are Thomas, a Priest ( marvelously played by Kevin McKillip), Maddie, an actress ( an adorable character played by Erin Noel Grennan with a great comic touch and Richard/Ricky/Rick, who is seeking the greatest return with the least investment ( both in his work an din his life) deftly handled by Joe Foust, who appears to be having as much fun as the audience.

What follows during these ten year periods is the reshaping of the lives of each child as we witness them trying to express their dreams and desires to each other as well as satisfy their mother Ruthie, who is from the “old school” when it comes to living life. We get to watch as each child adapts to changes in their lives, and the tensions that arise with their mother over these changes. There are many unresolved issues that are bought to light early in the play, but that do not get reolved until the final scene- a scene that will have you laughing but will, at the end, bring a tear to your eyes. Guaranteed!

While some might find this play a bit “hokey”, the type that you would have anticipated back in the old days at a Shady Lane Playhouse in Marnego or one of the other smaller summer theaters, the hokiness is just our own way of covering up the true emotions that this play will evoke form almost all of us. Many of us have problems with our parental relationships ( or did) and also with our siblings. You may also see a lot of the people that compose your own family in these characters and that is okay, a sit will make you think about your own life and allow you to recall some of the happy memories that you have somehow misplaced.

An evening of theater should be an escape from the problems of your everyday life and the situations you face every day. If it makes you laugh and acts as a diversion form your problems and fears, it has done its job, even if only for the two hours you enjoy the play or even the extra thurty minutes as you drive home thinking about what you saw and how it relates to your own life.If it does this, it has done its job! But to be honest, “making God Laugh” does a great deal more. It explores choices we make! It explores relationships with family and in some cases, others! It explores how we often give in to what other people expect instead of taking a stand, but in the end, this production promised to allow you to use the full extent of the emotional feelings you have. You will laugh and you will think and of greatest importance you will feel!

This cast is dynamite! Each actor brings a human touch to their characters-and while they are all solid and intense, Ms Roeder, who in my opinion is one of Chicago’s top comic actresses, has great timing and pulls off the comedy that Grennan has written, but due to the story content in her last years ( when her mind becomes one of lost memories) is able to bring the emotion to a another level, which brings those tears to our eyes as they take the last family photo for us> What a moment!

As you all know, the actors, story and director are of great importance, sort of like the master chef creating the perfect meal, but to make it perfect, we need to make sure that all the proper ingredients are in place. Theatre at The Center has put together the staff to get this done; Brenda Winstead’s costumes appear to follow the proper decades, Geoffrey Bushor’s lighting works perfectly, Barry g. Funderburg’s sound is jst right and the incidental music, with one exception, ideal. Due toe the number of decades involved, I would have to say that Prop Master Libby Fandrei, probably had one of the hardest of tasks- finding a “brick” phone, 8 track tapes and assorted other odd items, but handle it she did- Bravo!

In a “sit-com” type of stage presentation, many will be quick to call it just that- a situation comedy on a stage, live!. But “making God Laugh” is far more than that. It is a story about family and about love for each other, even when they don’t like each other. Yes, we often have feelings like that, not understanding why family or firends make the choices they do, but despite all, still care and love them, for who they are. This is a deeply human and touching story with lots of laughs that might be just right for a family outing. The play will continue at Theatre at The Center, located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster  through June 10th with performances as follows:

Fridays and Saturdays  at 8 p.m.,,Sundays at 2:30  p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at 2 p.m. There are also some Thursday evenings and Saturday matinees which will be shown at www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com, website for the theater

Tickets range from $38-$42 ( a very affordable price for theater of this quality) and you can subscribe to the series for as low as $136

To purchase tickets you can visit the box office, call 219-836-3255 or Tickets.com at 800-511-1552



To see more on this production visit the  MakingGodLaugh page at www.theatreinchicago.com


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