There is something about preparing a family meal that can send anyone around the bend.
Add to the ingredients an estranged family, whose ideals are the polar opposite from one another, a large uncooked turkey, and the person cooking said dinner in the throes of labour, and you have the makings of a dinner gone really wrong.
That’s the case in Canadian playwright David S. Craig’s Having Hope at Home, the hilarious, and dramatic, season opener at Powerhouse Theatre currently on the Vernon stage.
Set on a cold, winter’s evening, we are thrown into the chaos straight away when an argument ensues between family patriarch Russell Bingham and French Canadian dairy farmer Marcel, who is the common-law husband of Russell’s granddaughter, Carolyn.
The men are stressed because of who is coming to dinner at the drafty, old run-down dairy farm where they all live, but not as stressed as Carolyn, who is nine-months pregnant.
Her city dwelling parents, Bill (Russell’s son) and Jane Bingham, whom the family hasn’t seen in three years, are about to arrive and everyone is running around like headless chickens.
Dad is a high expectations obstetrician who is still upset that his daughter left university, while mom thinks a Royal Doulton china figurine will solve all the world’s problems, and is horrified that her daughter is living in an unsafe hovel, unmarried.
The drama kicks up a notch when it’s discovered that Carolyn is having her baby at home, with the help of a midwife named Dawn, and is in labour, both facts she has hidden from her parents for obvious reasons.
“She’s a vet!” yells out Russell, when Dawn arrives on the scene.
Despite dad’s feelings that a baby can’t be delivered safely at home, and mom simply feeling left out of the process, this story really is about the misconceptions built around a family that does not know how to communicate.
What makes this play tick is the witty banter – bickering if you will – and then those sweeter moments when the characters actually talk to one another. All their problems aren’t solved, but it’s hopeful to see a family working out long-stewing disagreements.
The witticisms and mannerisms are delivered deliciously by the six-person cast.
Doug Fairweather steals every scene playing Russell, the delightful say-it-like it-is codger, who is crippled from arthritis and suffering from heart palpitations, but is still milking the cows and chopping wood (and carrots, in one of the most hilarious scenes in the play).
Felisha Anderson is truly a force to be reckoned with as Carolyn, especially when she’s trying to hide a contraction or facing down her dad.
Cliff Lattery gives a valiant attempt at emulating Michel’s French-Canadian accent. He pulls off those endearing Quebecoisims such as when he refers to Carolyn as a “biscuit” case, because she is “flaky.”
John Lomas, as stodgy Bill, and Sharon Wickstrom, as snobby Jane, both manage to make their characters sympathetic and likeable, despite their old fashioned notions.
And Janet Anderson (no relation to Felisha) remains the voice of reason as midwife Dawn.
Applause also must go to the props, set decor and design crew for creating a family dinner that we all should attend, as flies on the wall.
At the end of the play, and as director Jo Jones told me, we’re not really sure if the baby solves all this family’s problems. But she sure gives us hope.
Having Hope at Home continues at the Powerhouse Theatre until Dec. 5. Contact the Ticket Seller (250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.com) for dates, times and tickets.
– Kristin Froneman is the arts-entertainment editor at the Vernon Morning Star.