REVIEW: Comedy and family tensions ripple in CAT’s latest

Performances run through to Dec. 17th at the Black Knight Inn

Central Alberta Theatre’s second dinner theatre of the season – Sean Grennan’s Making God Laugh – is off and running at the Black Knight Inn through to Dec. 17th.

Dinner starts at 6 p.m. with the show following.

Directed by CAT veteran Erna Soderberg, Making God Laugh follows a family over the course of 30 years’ worth of holidays and get-togethers.

Starting in 1980, Ruthie (Carla Falk) and Bill’s (Blaine Anderson) grown children – a priest, an aspiring actress and a former football star – return home where we learn of their plans and dreams as they embark on their adult lives.

It’s a hoot seeing things start off way back in 1980, complete with the zany fashions of the time plus the cultural references which will bring back lots of memories for those old enough to remember (like me). The same goes for the gathering in 1990 and in 2000 – remember all the crazy hype over Y2K?

These get-togethers, however, aren’t overly pleasant experiences.

Bill and Ruthie have their own challenges to face, plus old but serious tensions with the kids inevitably zip to the surface.

The thing is Ruthie just has to have everything ‘perfect’ – or at least how she would see ‘perfect’ as being.

Daughter Maddie (Meloni Jordan) is a significant disappointment because she’s pursuing an acting career. Plus Ruthie is always picking at her because of her clothes or her weight. The comments are cruel and it’s hard to understand why Ruthie, in general, is so unkind – and it’s all under the rather self-pitying guise of ‘loving’ her family and wanting the best for them.

But Maddie isn’t the only one who is a target – Richard (Perry Mill) is rather a big disappointment to mom, too. After all, he’s kind of aimless, floating from one job or project to another over the years. On the other hand, Ruthie is downright crazy about her third son – Father Thomas (David Henderson) because he has wisely chosen to be a ‘man of the cloth’.

Plays like this are tricky to pull together, because while there are lots of witty zingers, snappy comebacks and well-delivered and sharply crafted lines that crackle – it’s all put together with a story about a family where there is a lot of anger and repressed misery.

Bringing the comedy out – while not squelching the drama that is unfolding – is the key, and to her credit, Soderberg is mostly successful at doing this.

Anderson is great as Bill, who loves his wife but, at least for the first stretch of time, does little if anything to curb her judgmental jabs. When he finally does confront her, you can almost ‘hear’ the collective sigh of relief rippling across the audience.

Henderson and Jordan are also really strong in their roles – Jordan in particular because of the simmering tension she must portray as she faces off against Ruthie’s constant judging.

And Perry Mills perhaps has the most fun part to play – and Mills is the right guy for the part, no question. Richard – or Rick, as he unsuccessfully tries to train his family to call him – has the quirkiest personality of the bunch and Mills is certainly having a blast interpreting it.

As Ruthie, Falk delivers a performance with all the steeliness and obliviousness one would expect from such a character.

The problem comes from the character though – there isn’t much to like about Ruthie, so it’s hard to connect with her or feel for her – right to the end of the play when she’s become more vulnerable.

This has little to do with Falk’s interpretation and much more to do with how the character has been shaped in the script.

Normally in stories like this, we see something redeeming about even the most grating of characters. Then, by the end, when there are positive changes, we rally in support. But Ruthie hits the nasty note and pretty much stays there – to greater or lesser degrees. It may be covered up to a degree in propriety, but it’s there just the same.

Stories like this count on a few things – an audience’s ability to connect to the goings-on, our amusement at those awkward family situations and clashes that – let’s face it – we can all relate to.

And there are funny moments bubbling up throughout this show – no question.

I just wish there was a bit more about Ruthie to root for. But she has an unrelenting tunnel vision when it comes to what she expects from her family – for the bulk of the play, anyways. How funny folks in the audience find her, and Making God Laugh in general, may depend on their own experiences.

For ticket information, check out

Just Posted

Olympic sportscaster Brian Williams says IOC too lenient on Russians

Williams was in Red Deer for a speech for Farm Credit Canada

A 37-year-old Red Deer man arrested for impaired driving

Man sustained serious injuries in two-vehicle collision

Red Deer RCMP investigate Fairview home invasion

RCMP believe it was a targeted home invasion, targeting wrong residence

Red Deer Big Brothers and Big Sisters receives $9,000 to help children

Funds go to matching an adult with a child, providing them with training and support

Tyler Steenbergen looking to centre a line for Team Canada

Sylvan Lake’s Steenbergen invited to try out for Canada’s National Junior Team

Troubled Monk releases new spirit

Troubled Spirit vodka was introduced in early December

FCC votes along party lines to end ‘net neutrality’

Move rolls back restrictions that keep big providers from blocking services they don’t like

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

Disney buying part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4B deal

Disney is buying a large part of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox for about $52.4 billion

Bountiful polygamist believed he couldn’t be prosecuted: lawyer

Winston Blackmore’s lawyer says Blackmore did not believe he could be prosecuted

Woman charged after altercation injured baby in Toronto

Charges have been laid after a four-month-old baby girl was critically injured in Toronto

Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil announces retirement

Veteran Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil spent 15 seasons with the NHL team

Trudeau’s office confirms staffer being probed over allegations

PMO confirms staffer being probed over allegations of reported “inappropriate behaviour.”

Police kill gunman north of Toronto

Police shot and killed a gunman during a hostage situation at a bank north of Toronto

Most Read