“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” That’s the theme of “Making God Laugh,” a play by Sean Grennan portraying the life of an American family – mom, dad and three adult children – through 30 years of holiday celebrations.
The Theatre Longview production will take place Friday through Sunday at Grace Crossing United Methodist Church, 1001 W. Hawkins Parkway in Longview.
In the play, Ruthie and Bill and their three children contend with changes in themselves, their family and their world. Each discovers that charting a life course doesn’t guarantee arriving at the planned destination.
Theatre Longview volunteer Lindsay Love connected with the play the first time she read it.
“I laughed and I cried. I loved the tenderness of it,” Love said. “I knew at that moment that I wanted to direct this show.
“I know these people. There’s a mother and daughter who … just don’t get along. The character of the daughter, I know her personally,” she said.
This is the fourth play Love has directed since her college days. She’s also an actor; Love has a bachelor’s degree in theater performance from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
She called directing “a fun challenge.”
“With acting you’re responsible for one character. With directing you’re responsible for all of them. … The director has to have the vision of how the puzzle pieces will fit together,” said Love, who has been a part of the nonprofit theater since 2016.
“The most difficult thing about this show is making (the characters) real and not caricatures,” she continued.
Love said the cast understands her vision for the show.
“It’s really great when you find a cast that feels the same way about a show that you do,” she said. “I have a cast that works so well together that they feel like a family. … That familial connection comes across on stage.”
Kate Wells, who plays Ruthie, is passionate about live theater. She acted in her first play when she was 4 years old and has a degree in theater.
Wells has been a part of Theatre Longview “since the very beginning, the first planning meeting in 2012,” she said, adding that this is her 15th time to act in or direct a Theatre Longview production.
She enjoys theater because she can step outside of herself, live the life of someone else and understand what drives that person.
“I think theater is really important, because it’s something that anyone can appreciate or connect with,” Wells said.
“This particular show … will connect with the audience on a really deep level, because it’s about family,” she said.
“Ruthie is very opinionated. She is the matriarch. She is the ruler of the family. She runs the show,” Wells said.
Ruthie doesn’t mince words.
“She loves her kids, she wants them to be the best, … but she doesn’t always go about it in the best way. She’s a typical mother,” Wells said.
“What surprised me the most is how much I really ended up liking her,” she added.
While not a villain, Ruthie is the antagonist of the play
“Through her actions, she provides a lot of conflict,” Wells said.
She stressed that this is an ensemble show.
“You see every family member’s journey, from where they start out to where they end up. Each character really has an arc and a moment in the show when you get to find out about that character and what drives them,” she said.
“I really want the audience to feel something – joy, laughter (or) tears. … The show is so good and so different from what Theatre Longview usually does. … It is a funny show, but it has those moments of intense drama. And I think that’s great,” Wells said.
Alix Kirkpatrick plays Maddie, Ruthie and Bill’s daughter.
“This role is particularly challenging. It’s got the drama and the comedy,” said Kirkpatrick, who has volunteered with Theatre Longview since 2015. This is her fourth acting role.
Kirkpatrick has worked hard to portray the relationship between Maddie and Ruthie.
“They have a very challenging relationship and trying to get that across (is difficult) … and trying to make them likeable, as well. You want the audience to root for these people,” she said.
“Family is important. … No matter where you are in your life, how different you are, how many squabbles you get into — family is family,” she said.