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Family has a ghost of a chance at reconciliation

Laura Hunter, Dian Borek, William Brezden, Shari Roberts, Kevin Foard and Zoe Dunbar are the cast members of the Elora Community Theatre production of Mom’s Gift. [DAN DUNLOP]

That “you can never go home again” may not be literally true, as witnessed not only by an estranged daughter’s return, but also an appearance by her mother, dead these 11 months.

The Clarence-like attempt for the dearly departed to earn her wings propels the dramedy that is Mom’s Gift, the Elora Community Theatre production that opens this weekend at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

Billed as “a comedy with a heart,” what better opening date than February 14? posits show producer Deb Stanton.

“The director, Stan Jensen, submitted the show, the selection committee thought this would make a great mid-winter play: it’s a comedy with a heart, we call it, when it opens on Valentine’s Day, right?”

Written by Phil Olson, and the recipient of numerous awards, the play tells the story of 30-something Kat, who has avoided her father ever since he was behind the wheel when a drunk driver hit his car in a collision that ultimately claimed her mother’s life. Worse still, the MIT-grad, who works in the developing world as a water-purification expert, wasn’t around when dad opted to take mom off of life-support.

On returning home for her dad’s 60th birthday under a court-ordered anger management plan, the result of a post-funeral incident with police 11 months earlier, Kat is greeted by the ghost of her mother. Mom, only visible to Kat, is on a mission that’s not quite clear, but probably has something to do with reconciliation.

That mix makes for both fine comedy and some touching moments, Stanton notes.

“There’s a lot of humour in it, and then in the last sort of half hour of the show, it has a bit of a twist that leaves you with happy tears, put it that way,” she said.

The particulars may vary, but the kind of family issues are universal, ones to which everyone can relate, Stanton added.

“Between the family dynamics and, as I said, the ending, it just makes you stop and think about your own family – life is short.”

Originally set in Minnesota, the location has been moved to Fergus for this production, allowing for a few local references to make their way into the play. But it remains the same ideal community theatre story, said Stanton.

Along with the smart and smart-assy Kat (played by Laura Hunter), the caring mom (Dian Borek) and reserved by nice dad (William Brezden), we’re introduced to Kat’s younger sister, the ditzy Brittney (Zoe Dunbar); Kevin (Kevin Foard), the good-looking, successful former high school love interest; and Trish (Shari Roberts), the caregiver who tended to mom in her final days.

“It’s a great cast, and everyone is having fun … with this story.”

Mom’s Gift was first produced at the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles, California, in December, 2013, winning the World Series of Screenwriting – Stage Play Competition and the McLaren Memorial Comedy Playwriting Competition for that year. It’s gone on to dozens of productions, a favourite of community and dinner theatre.

The Elora Community Theatre production of Mom’s Gift runs February 14-16 and February 21-23at the Fergus Grand Theatre. Show time is 8 p.m., with a Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are available from the theatre box office, 244 St. Andrew St. W., Fergus, by calling (519) 787-1981 or online.

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