southtownstar
SPOTTY 
Weather Updates

‘Making God Laugh’ stretches over three dysfunctional Thanksgivings

From left: ErNoel Grennan KevMcKillip Peggy Roeder Craig Spidle  Joe Foust star 'Making God Laugh.' | Provided Photo

From left: Erin Noel Grennan, Kevin McKillip, Peggy Roeder, Craig Spidle and Joe Foust star in "Making God Laugh." | Provided Photo

storyidforme: 29715946
tmspicid: 10734344
fileheaderid: 4920515

‘Making God Laugh’

◆ “Making God Laugh”

◆ Theatre at the Center,
1040 Ridge Road, Munster

◆ Through June 10

◆ $38-$42

◆ 836-3255; www.theatreatthecenter.com

Maps

Updated: June 5, 2012 8:05AM



If it’s life as a shiny, happy Norman Rockwell painting you’re after, stay away from Sean Grennan’s “Making God Laugh.”

The playwright’s newest drama, running through June 10 at Theatre at the Center in Munster, serves up Thanksgiving realness over 30 years, replete with the sibling rivalry/marital discord/drunken uncle shenanigans you’d expect from a family of three strong-minded siblings, one over-bearing mother and a conflict-averse father. There’s enough drama to fuel 30 years of the late, great soap opera, “All My Children.”

“It’s about family. We’ve all got one,” says the New York City-based Grennan, 56, a native of Oak Park, Ill.

“I wanted to catch some universal things about them. About how we miscommunicate. About how the things we say in the heat of the moment can linger for years. I wanted to show the underlying love that exists despite how family members misbehave with each other — that people really do love each other even if they express it in the oddest way. We all have a sibling/parent/child that we don’t always click with sometimes. But you can love someone without always liking them.”

So it goes in “Making God Laugh,” which takes its title from the maxim “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

The drama, with more than a little comedy embedded in it, opens circa 1980 as siblings Richard, Thomas and Maddie return home for Thanksgiving with their parents Ruth and Jimmy. It then jumps through the decades to Thanksgiving 1990, on to 2000 and finally to 2010.

Over those 30 years, Grennan traces an often wryly funny, bittersweet arc of family fights and forgiveness highlighted against a backdrop of dubious fashion choices (think man bags, shoulder pads, bad perms), dubious investments (Enron, Pacers, Pintos) and Y2K paranoia.

Grennan’s sister, Erin Noel Grennan, plays Maddie and was one of the first people to read the script.

“She called me after she read it and was like, ‘Ow. Ow. Ow.’ Some of this sounds so familiar. But I think you got it exactly right,” Sean Grennan said.

Which isn’t to say “Making God Laugh” is based on the Family Grennan. Well, not really.

“My family, we’re all a bunch of smart-asses and jokesters. So I think the tone in ‘Making God Laugh’ is from my family. But it’s not really about us. We’re just not that interesting,” Grennan said.

However director Bill Pullinsi finds plenty of interest in the piece.

“The good son who’s having problems, the mother who keeps pushing buttons, the daughter who feels unappreciated. The dip that gets trotted out every year that everyone has to pretend to love — every family has its own version of these,” Pullinsi said.

The show is uniquely challenging because its characters have to age 30 years on stage, he added. “There’s a certain suspension of disbelief,” Pullinsi said. “You aren’t going to be able to make a 21-year-old look 51, so what you have to do is cast actors who are somewhere in the middle of there, age-wise. Then you have costumes that are noticeable for the fads of the different eras, we’re going to use a lot of mustaches and padding and wigs. All that helps.”

In addition to Erin Noel Grennan, the ensemble includes Kevin McKillip, Joe Foust, Craig Spidle and Peggy Roeder, some of the most reliably excellent actors in the area.

“When I first saw the cast, I was like, ‘Oh God. If this sucks, it will totally be my fault,’” Grennan said.

“People have accused me of being a joke machine. Just flip on the switch and let the laughter start,” he added of previous works including “LUCK!,” “Married Alive” and the “Phantom of the Country Palace.”

“I don’t have a problem with people who think that because I think laughter is a good thing. Writing commercially, funny is important. But this time, I went a little bit darker,” Grennan said.

Which isn’t to say “Making God Laugh” is a downer. “The audience laughs when they remember the references to the ’80s and ’90s,” Pullinsi said, “but people are also affected by certain truths that every family can identify with.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.