FORT MADISON – It’s a familiar quote from filmmaker, Woody Allen that’s meant to put humankind’s control over their own destiny in perspective. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Those words became the touchstone for the funny, but heartwarming stage play that OFP is bringing to life this December. This production is directed by Angela Sanford and the co-sponsor is Lee County Bank.
The play follows one typical American family over the course of thirty years’ worth of holidays. Starting in 1980, Ruthie and Bill’s grown children — a priest, an aspiring actress, and a former football star — all return home, where we learn of their plans and dreams as they embark on their adult lives. The empty-nester parents contend with their own changes, too, as old family rituals are trotted out and ancient tensions flare up. As the years go by, the family discovers that, despite what we may have in mind, we often arrive at unexpected destinations.
Rehearsal began before the successful run of “Steel Magnolias” in early October so OFP was forced to reconnect with their roots as a gypsy theater. “Our downtown space was double booked for a couple weeks, so we had to make do,” Sanford said. Luckily cast members were able to hold their rehearsals off site at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
The cast has been having a ball embracing their characters that can – every now and then – hit pretty close to home. If not to the actors themselves then at least to people they know and love.
Veteran actor Jim Cole portrays Bill, the easy-going father of this motley crew of a family. Cole has played everything from a wife murderer (“Dial M For Murder”) and happy eccentric (“The Good Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise”) with equal enthusiasm and this show is no different.
Shelley Dowling, director of 2014’s “Snow Child” and star of many Opal plays, has been cast as Ruthie, the bossy but well-meaning mother.
OFP President, Ty Clute plays the oldest son Richard, a stylish entrepreneur with a hysterical scene as a Y2K-conspiracy-prepper fanatic. “He does this meticulous search for recording devices around the set all the while spouting lines like, ‘That’s what the government wants you to think!’ He’s had us all in stitches,” co-star Shelley Dowling told us.
Richar Abel takes a break from her familiar role as makeup and hair stylist (“Steel Magnolias”) and is back on the stage as daughter Maddie, the strong-willed artist. Abel said after a recent rehearsal, “This is an easy role to play. We get along great. Ty and Mike Randolph are like the brothers I never wanted.”
Mike Randolph, a relative newcomer (“Misconceptions”) to OFP, is cast as Thomas, the even-tempered ‘good’ son. With this group though, Randolph has his work cut out for him. OFP President Ty Clute said, “Mike has a pretty emotional, serious monologue and we aren’t making it easy for him. It’s a challenge every rehearsal to see who can get him to crack.” Sounds like a typical big brother, right?
That is what makes this show so special as holiday fare. Everybody’s family has at least one quirky character in an ugly Christmas sweater to keep the party interesting. The best part about seeing “Making God Laugh” is that you can laugh out loud at all those crazy people all at once. Get it out of your system in time for your own family reunion!
Rounding out the crew are Kerrington Wardlow as Stage Manager and Xandra Abel on Sound and Lights. Kerrington is a recent grad from the OFP Youth Theater Program and Xandra is in her final year with them. Jan Jud will be helping Ty Clute with Set Design. Amy Perez, on hair and makeup, will tackle the monumental task of aging five cast members thirty years in just two hours.
Making God Laugh, by Sean Grennan, will be presented by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc. (www.playscripts.com) Performances run December 7-9 and 14-16. Evening shows begin at 7:30 and the curtain rises on Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets for Adults are $12, and Students are $8. They are available at the door one hour before show time or on our website.
The Old Fort Players have been entertaining the community since 1981 and are located in downtown Fort Madison at 725 Avenue G. Call 319-372-9559 for more information. Like them on Facebook or visit www.oldfortplayers.com to keep up with everything that’s going on at the theater