Craig Spidle (left), Peggy Roeder and Kevin McKillip, seen here with a baby, star in Theatre at the Center's "Making God Laugh." | Michael Brosilow photo
‘MAKING GOD LAUGH’
◆ In previews, with an official opening set for May 6 and a run to June 10
Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. There also are select Thursday evening and Saturday matinee shows.
◆ Theatre at the Center,
1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.
◆ Tickets, $38-$42.
◆ (219) 836-3255; theatreatthecenter.com
Updated: June 5, 2012 11:25AM
The always-quotable Woody Allen once said he knew how to make God laugh: “Tell him your plans.”
Well, playwright Sean Grennan knows how to make an audience laugh: Tell them about a family in which the children come home and reveal their plans.
“Making God Laugh” is the latest comedy by Grennan, a native Chicagoan who has penned such plays as “Beer for Breakfast,” “Married Alive,” “Phantom of the Country Opera” and “Another Night Before Christmas.”
The latter was a big hit when it was staged at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind., in fall with that theater’s William Pullinsi directing.
Inspired by the Woody Allen joke, Grennan’s “Making God Laugh” is in previews at Theatre at the Center with Pullinsi also directing.
The show officially opens on May 6 and runs through June 10.
The play’s stellar, multiple award-winning cast includes Grennan’s sister, Erin Noel Grennan.
She reprises the role she originated when the comedy premiered in summer with the Peninsula Players in Wisconsin.
She portrays one of the family’s three siblings, also played by Kevin McKillip and Joe Foust.
Craig Spidle and Peggy Roeder portray the empty-nest parents.
“It’s a funny and touching play about real life,” said Erin Grennan, an Oak Park-River Forest High School graduate who plays Maddie, the daughter who is an aspiring actress.
“From the play’s opening to the end we all age 30 years,” she said.
“There are four scenes, beginning in 1980 and each 10 years apart, as we return home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Easter.
“There are similarities with (Sean and) my family, but this is not autobiographical.”
McKillip plays Tom, the youngest son who is embarking on a career as a Catholic priest.
Foust portrays Richard, the oldest sibling, an ex-college football player who now wants to be an investor and make lots of money.
The father is a postal worker who opens the play close to retirement. The stay-at-home mom proves to be a caring, but an overbearing parent and the father tries to placate her.
“For example,” Erin Grennan said, “she would rather Maddie get married and have children than go into acting. She doesn’t have much faith in her talent.”
Meanwhile, Tom is the “good son” for aspiring to be a priest, while Richard flounders.
Spidle is a veteran of family comedies. Among his many roles, he played the father in the widely acclaimed “Over the Tavern” at Chicago’s Mercury Theater and Northlight Theatre.
Roeder last appeared at Theatre at the Center in “Almighty Bob” and has appeared in a number of films, including “Road to Perdition” and “Groundhog Day.”
She also has won several Jeff Awards for her stage work.
McKillip is making his Theatre at the Center debut. His accomplishments include William Shakespeare productions in Canada as well as varied comedic and dramatic productions in the Chicago area.
Foust also starred in “Almighty Bob” and a number of area Shakespeare productions.
In “Making God Laugh,” the scenes set 10 years apart reveal the family as drifting apart in hopes and dreams.
When things do fall into place, they’re not according to plans. Hence, the play’s title becomes more apparent.
“What’s fascinating to me is the play is not really plot-driven,” Erin Grennan said. “But it’s about who these people are and how they could apply to almost any family.”
And how, as most any parent knows, the best-laid family plans can go awry.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.