Everyone has probably had that family get together—a wedding, a funeral—or more likely a holiday dinner that they wish they could avoid. The saying goes we can choose our friends but we are stuck with the family we are given. Many writers—Eugene O’Neil, Christopher Durang among them–have tried to exorcise their demons by writing plays about their dysfunctional family gatherings. Add Tiffany Cascio to that growing list with her comedy Thanksgiving, receiving its World Premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival courtesy of Samovar Subway Ensemble.
There is no a samovar in sight as obsessive compulsive older sister and bride-to-be Chloe (Allison Youngberg) sets the table for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Mom Lily (Sharon Spence) has been of little help, just making her famous cranberries, but she did manage to find a very festive turkey festooned outfit to wear. Estranged sister Victoria (Susan Louise O’Connor) arrives with ceviche rather than candied sweet potatoes as a side dish, but at least she showed up. Young and gay brother Max (Trip Langley) arrives with current Vegas roommate Starr (Asia Lynn Pitts), a professional model(?), dancer(?), hooker(?) as his Plus One. Chloe is not pleased since she was hoping to use this quiet(?) family dinner to show her fiancé Luke (Gary Poux) just how normal a family he would be marrying into.
Epithets, insults and food will be flung before the leftovers and decorations are put away and much hilarity ensues in Cascio’s script. She has created some disturbing characters and disruptive behavior, but by the play’s end, wounds are beginning to heal and plans are made to reunite for Christmas. The cast plays their over-the-top roles with gusto and their big family brawl looks real and spontaneous thanks to Dane Oliver’s adept fight choreography. Director Kitty Lindsay has staged the play with enough variations that the cast just doesn’t sit hiding behind the food for ninety minutes. A few scenes that take place away from the dining table can probably be better integrated into the main plot outside the limiting confines of the Fringe setting. Cascio’s script needs a few tweaks and cuts here and there but it a very solid outing. Give a family member a hug and be grateful you don’t have to dine at this Thanksgiving table but be glad you were invited to watch.