INNISFAIL – Live theatre with Innisfail Town Theatre (ITT) is back this month at the Ol' Moose Hall with a nine-show run of David S. Craig’s Having Hope at Home.
Craig, a prominent and well-respected Toronto-based playwright and theatre artist, first produced Having Hope at Home at Ontario’s Blyth Festival Theatre in 2003. It’s considered by many in the Canadian live theatre community as a “big-hearted comedy” offering a message of forgiveness and hope.
Mark Kemball, a 25-year member of ITT, is co-directing the two-act, two-hour long play with local theatre veteran Mary Stenhouse, who previously directed Having Hope at Home nearly 20 years ago with Red Deer’s Central Alberta Theatre.
Kemball’s last time in the director’s chair was in 2019 when he co-directed the ITT spring production of The Ladies Foursome with Jim Stenhouse.
What is certain for most ITT followers is that the Having Hope at Home production is a huge departure from the community group’s spring production of Noises Off; a wild tale presented at breakneck speed about a group of wildly eccentric stage actors preparing to stage a production of a farce amidst door-slamming chaos.
“(Noises Off) is a very difficult play to follow. If you miss one thing you miss a whole bunch of things,” said Kemball. “This play (Having Hope at Home) is pretty straightforward. It should be fairly easy for people to grasp.
“It's a heartwarming comedy story about love, life and reconciling differences between three generations of family members.”
With Having Hope at Home, the audience is introduced to Carolyn and Michel, a young couple having their first baby. They are having a big dinner with Carolyn’s parents Bill and Jane and her grandfather Russell.
Carolyn and Michel live with Russell on the family dairy farm. The young wife has not talked to her parents in three years.
“The conflict is the father Bill and the daughter have never gotten along, and the father and the grandfather have never gotten along. So, there's a couple of dynamics going on here,” said Kemball. “I think the grandfather always wanted his son to maybe stay on the farm and he had other aspirations to become a doctor.”
Carolyn’s father is the head of obstetrics at his hospital.
And there, the big problem is brewing.
Carolyn has decided she’s having a midwife for the arrival of her baby, and dad the obstetrician does not know that. She has to pretend everything is normal, including passing off midwife Dawn as the vet.
It all comes to a head during the frantic preparations for the three-generation family dinner.
Carolyn goes into labour just as her parents arrive.
With alarm and tension rising between three stubborn generations of family members, onlookers are taken on a journey that begins with estrangement, confrontation and anger, and morphing to a moving and heartwarming ride towards forgiveness and hope.
It is the end result of the ride that especially appealed to Kemball when he and Stenhouse were making the final selection for the fall production.
“She (Stenhouse) is very familiar with the play, and quite liked it. Mary wanted to take another stab at it, so I just said, yeah, I'll come along for the ride,” said Kemball, noting themes similar to ones arising from the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “What kind of drew me into getting interested in doing this is that we've seen a lot of craziness in the last two years.
“The play kind of spoke to me because there's been a lot of divisiveness in our town, in our country and in our world,” he added. “This is about a divisive family who are trying to mend some fences, so in a big scale that kind of spoke to me that way.”
Having Hope at Home opens its first week of its nine-show run at the Ol' Moose Hall on Thursday, Nov. 24, and Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26.
It will run the same three days of the week on Dec. 1, 2 and 3, and then again on Dec. 8, 9 and 10. Every show is a dinner theatre except for opening night on Nov. 24.
Tickets cost $55 for the dinner theatre and $30 for the show only. They can be picked up by calling The Leg Man from Monday through to Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.