Review: A Nice Family Gathering – works best in its serious moments

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In playwright Phil Olson’s world, family dysfunction comes with laughs and a capital D. It was therefore a bit surprising that it was in the more serious moments where Metro Theatre’s A Nice Family Gathering worked best and not in the comedy of that dysfunction.

A Nice Family GatheringGathering for their first Thanksgiving dinner since the death of their father, the three Lundeen children Carl (Johnny Gingell), Michael (Steven Charlton) and Stacey (Erin Miller) return to the family home where Mom (Sue Sparlin) is busy preparing a feast of tuna surprise appetizers and turkey dogs. Not unexpectedly, like any dysfunctional family comedy, each brings with them a laundry list of unresolved family and personal issues to the table.

Also joining the nuclear family is Michael’s wife Jill (Eby Luking) who just happens to be taking fertility drugs in an attempt to get pregnant and Jerry, one of the father’s old golfing buddies who just may have some romantic interest in the mother.

Also on the scene is dear old dead Dad (Harry Seddon) who makes an appearance as a ghost that only Carl can see. Dad, originally on a singular mission from beyond the grave, not surprisingly ends up helping the entire family resolve their issues just in time for pie.

Playwright Olson has given us little here that is unpredictable and while the actors do their best with the comedy, it isn’t until Olson crosses over to a more serious side that this cast, especially Gingell, Sparlin and Sedddon, gives us its truest moments. Unfortunately though, as it is ostensibly a comedy, these moments are few and far between.

Once again I continue to be amazed at the level of detail and craftsmanship that goes into Metro Theatre set designs and this one, by Heather Stewart, is no different. On the flip side however, Metro does appear to be once again cursed with lighting issues.

There is, quite literally, some serious talent on stage at the Metro Theatre right now. But as a comedy that doesn’t quite work.

3 out of 5 StarsA Nice Family Gathering
Metro Theatre
26 February – 27 March 2010

Tickets $15-$18 available by calling the Metro box office at 604 266-7191. Visit for more information.

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