Colin Fleming-Stumpf Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘Making God Laugh’ at Theatre In The Mist

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The cast of “Making God Laugh” at Theatre In The Mist.

As Woody Allen once said “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” This famous quote is the basis of “Making God Laugh,” a 2014 play written by Sean Grennan and currently being performed by Lewiston-based company Theatre in the Mist. It’s the perfect holiday fare if you’ve grown tired of “Annie” and “A Christmas Carol,” the traditional productions put on this time of year that most of us have seen a few too many times.

. . .great comedic moments. . .

“Making God Laugh” is a four-scene “dramedy” centered on a prototypical Midwestern family as they gather together to celebrate the holidays across the years, focusing on the tensions and conflicts at the core of many suburban families in America. Starting in 1980, the newly launched kids – a priest (Tom, played by Leonardo LiPomi); an aspiring actress (Maddie, played by Gabriella A. Corsaro); and the oddball black sheep (Richard, played by Phillip Buffone) all return home, where we learn of their plans and dreams as they embark on and enter their adult lives in the 90’s, early 2000’s, and today. The empty nest parents (Anne Kurtis and Joe Sciammarella) contend with their own changes too, including dubious traditions and the realities of aging.

Elements of TITM’s production of “Making God Laugh” are well done. Per usual, Tracey Pici’s scenic design is stellar, perfectly capturing the look and feel of your grandma’s house around the holidays. Small details from the pictures on the wall to the ugly generations-old sofa create the exact environment needed to tell this story. The only thing missing was the plastic sofa cover!

The production has great comedic moments, particularly from daughter Maddie (Corsaro), who is often-testy and ceaselessly sarcastic, constantly goading her brothers and hurling sly one-liners.  Older brother Tom (LiPomi), the family Priest, delivered a slew of great church-related humor. Younger brother Richard (or “Ricky”, played by Phillip Buffone) had some great zingers too, though in the show’s earlier scenes it’s admittedly a little distracting for the “eccentric teenage son” to be played by an actor who’s visibly the same(ish) age as his father. On the dramatic side, Ann Kurtis’ Ruthie, the family matriarch, did a wonderful job as the constantly-disapproving mother, particularly as she aged and the signs of dementia began to set in.

Unfortunately the production also has some pretty stark weaknesses, most notably the cast’s use of their scripts on stage, which makes for often-clunky dialogue, botched entrances, limited range of motion, and relatively subdued acting. Having seen many of these performers in other productions I can attest to their skill and abilities, but the staging of this production did them no favors.

The last performance of Making God Laugh takes place on Sunday, December 2, so you’ll likely be reading this after the show has closed, but I encourage you to take a trip out to Lewiston to see a TITM production when you get the chance. Their well-produced, family-friendly shows are a WNY gem!

“Making God Laugh” closed on December 2, 2018. For more information on Theatre In The Mist. Click here.