The holidays force most of us to confront an inevitable reality: family.
Whether you love them or would rather leave some out in the cold, Carpenter Square Theatres production of A Nice Family Christmas presents one family that just might be worse than our own. Artistic director Rhonda Clark spoke to Oklahoma Gazette about the plays Oklahoma City premiere and unpredictable gatherings.
Take the show Everybody Loves Raymond and set it in Lutheran Minnesota, and thats A Nice Family Christmas, Clark said. Its a comedy with a sitcom feel, where every character is larger than life.
Set in present-day Minnesota, Phil Olsons original comedy centers on the Lundeens family Christmas Eve gathering in widowed mom Helens apartment.
Each character brings in elements from their personal life that they are trying to conceal, Clark said. Everyones truth is gradually revealed as the evening goes on, leading to drama and hilarity.
A Nice Family Christmas offers a larger study of family dynamics during the holidays. Helens son Clark, a journalist for a struggling newspaper, has been assigned the task of writing a piece about his boisterous family. Of course, Clarks plan doesnt stay secret for very long.
Once the family finds out hes documenting them for a story, everyone goes into a tailspin, Clark said.
A divisive narrative is exacerbated by the plays unpredictable characters most of whom werent even invited to the party.
The crusty, inappropriate Grandma Lundeen unexpectedly shows up at Helens door, saying what she thinks and doing what she feels, Clark said. Uncle Bob loves to drink a little too much, despite the familys Lutheran background. Its a family of contradictions and tension just like anyones, but much more pronounced than most.
Congruent with Carpenter Squares goal to present audiences with contemporary stories with timely messages, A Nice Family Christmas also delves into generational issues. Stacey, a younger character, comes out to Grandma, who is less than accustomed to progressive social realities.
We chose this play because it deals with intergenerational issues that audiences would find relatable, Clark said. Cast members are from their 20s to their 60s. Olsen writes most of his plays based on his own family experiences, and those always turn out to be such universally appealing stories.
The play embraces the collective phenomenon of looking at your family and wondering how you got stuck with it.
Sheryl Martin is directing Carpenter Squares version of the play, and shes especially good with comedy for the stage, Clark said. Shes done excellent work producing a play that engages all ages.
Although its a play about familial dysfunction, the tone never turns morose. Clark said A Nice Family Christmas delivers an authentic look at the holiday experience.
Each holiday season, we like to do a show with a Christmas theme but also keep it untraditional, Clark said. We want to keep people on their toes and show them what they dont expect but ultimately what they relate to. The play might remind you of some crazy extended relatives, but youll most likely leave grateful for your own family.
Print headline: Fickle traditions, A Nice Family Christmas presents audiences with a family even more dysfunctional than their own.