With holiday planning in full swing, chances are any family dynamics you may anticipate – or even dread – will pale in comparison to what unfolds in Theatre Wellesley’s latest production.
A dysfunctional holiday-themed comedy, In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should be Shot) makes rather merry with the kind of off-kilter family members everyone makes fun of for their quirks and strange behaviours, especially during holiday get-togethers.
The play is set at a Christmas Eve dinner in a modest, upper-middle-class home in snowy Brooklyn. The excitement begins when two bumbling crooks that have just robbed a bank, Tony and Vinny, use a ruse to gain entrance into the house and spend the evening holding the uncontrollable Douglas family hostage. The unmanageable situation gets worse with an ever-growing list of family members and neighbours who keep dropping by.
The botched robbery of a neighbourhood liquor store by the high-strung Tony (played by Dave McNorgan) and his goofy sidekick Vinnie (Nathan Martin) is just the beginning, as things go downhill faster than any toboggan to be found under the tree.
“With that, there comes a number of comedic moments,” explained producer Rhonda Caldwell of the crooks’ efforts to avoid police detection. “It’s a little bit of a Christmas story. But, you know, people fall on hard times, people make bad choices – how do we support each other through those things? It could be family, or it could be people that botched up the robbery.”
The Douglas family is determined to have an enjoyable family Christmas dinner regardless of the chaotic circumstances.
“The family just sort of rolls with the punches,” said Caldwell. “So it’s like ‘hold it! This is our family gathering. We still need to eat dinner. Oh wait, we still need to eat dessert. It’s Christmas, of course we have to have dessert.’ And then it’s like, ‘What’s dessert without coffee?’ They want to go on and do Christmas as they usually do.”
“By the end, it’s like ‘who is holding who hostage?’” said McNorgan with a laugh.
The tone is a light and family-friendly treatment of the script by Steve Franco. It’s all about the laughs.
“It is probably one of the funniest productions that Theatre Wellesley has put on so far,” added Jamie Russell, who plays Bunny. “It’s also probably one of the largest casts we’ve had. There’s slapstick comedy, innuendo jokes. It’s all about family, and how you can’t necessarily pick your family all the time but you love them no matter what.”
The cast is a mix of experienced actors and newcomers. Allan Strong, who plays the dad, has been with Theatre Wellesley since its inception over two decades ago, while this production is a first for Dorisa Martinello, who plays Aunt Rose.
“They made me an 83-year-old lady with blue hair, and a jersey accent,” said Martinello with a laugh. “I didn’t pick that – they picked me for that; they told me what to do! You audition, they look at your character and say ‘you’ll fit.'”
The casting process for Theatre Wellesley is unique in that aspiring actors do not target their specific role. Instead, they are called in to read a script, then their character is chosen by a panel based on the audition and the script.
“You act out different scenes, and then they tell you who you are later,” said Martin.
Theatre Wellesley is very much about encouraging people to come out and enjoy the experience, so newcomers are always welcome.
“I think the one greatest thing with Theatre Wellesley is that we always want everyone to have fun,” said Russell. “We always encourage new people to come out whether that’s to be onstage or help backstage, we’re always encouraging people from the community to come out and do that.”
“We always tell ourselves that we want to put on good theatre, and we want to have fun while we’re doing it,” added McNorgan.
The Theatre Wellesley production of In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (Who Should Be Shot) runs November 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. and November 24 and 25 at 2 p.m. at the Wellesley Community Centre. Tickets are available at Pym’s Village Market. Alternatively, call 519-897-1737 or visit their website for more information.