Oh, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre - you've grown up so fast. And you've become so sassy! The latest production at WJT is a world premiere of a made-in-Manitoba play.
Nothing ruins a family getaway at the cottage like family.
That's the premise behind One of Ours, the new play from WJT artistic producer and Governor General's Award nominee Michael Nathanson. This one might not score such lofty accolades - but it does make for an entertaining night at the theatre.
Simon (Dov Mickelson), who's the loveable-but-schlubby type, is bringing his new girlfriend, Lily (local Gwendolyn Collins), to meet his alpha male brother Mark (Adrian Marchuk) and sister-in-law Janice (Aviva Hoffman) at their extravagant West Hawk Lake cottage. But Lily is an outsider in every sense - she's much younger than Simon, she's from New York, she's a flighty actor, and she's not Jewish - so there's tension between her and the in-laws from the start. What ensues is a fast-paced battle of wits between Lily and Mark, with pushover Simon caught in the middle.
Nathanson (who also directs) is not reinventing the wheel here - we've seen the "dysfunctional family comedy" before. But the important thing here is that, for the most part, both script and production deliver.
As anyone who saw his last play (the GG-nominated Talk) knows, Michael Nathanson's strength is in his dialogue. And here, it's lightning-fast and very witty (some jokes are a bit cheap, but that's okay - there's usually another one not far away). Fans of David Mamet will probably appreciate it - the dialogue is also quite profanity-laden (and yes, there's a justified nudity warning for this show, so it's certainly got some sass to it).
The four-person cast does a superb job handling the dialogue, and making the characters - who stray perilously close to being caricatures - into believable people... if not necessarily likeable people (this play can be quite nasty and cutting at points).
One of Ours doesn't all totally click: it ends rather abruptly, which I think may indicate some broader problems with its structure and flow (there are some dropped plot threads, and Janice gets a bit short-changed in the "character development" department). And it certainly engages intellectually more than emotionally, so if you're out for "heart-warming," you may be disappointed.
But for that, One of Ours is fast, funny, sexy - and probably more fun than hanging out with your dysfunctional family at the cottage.