September 30, 2019 - Ankeny Community Theatre
Surprising ‘Gift’ draws the audience in
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
What happens if the defiant one of two daughters returns home, only to be confronted by the ghost of her dead mother? Mom died from an automobile accident almost a year earlier. This self-estranged daughter was under court-ordered anger management counseling to attend her father’s birthday party. She did not expect to begin a running conflict with her deceased mother. Add her widower father, her polar opposite sister, a neighbor boy, the mother’s caretaker (now person of father’s interest), and a rather bawdy, Gladys Cravitz-like neighbor, and you have a recipe for a wild, two-act theatrical laugh fest.
Everyone’s past is slowly peeled away, revealing deeper truths and motives that make this band of souls connected by family and chance more intertwined than what appeared at first blush. The laughs and heartfelt moments carry the audience to a surprise and gratifying ending. Phil Olson’s script is filled with snappy dialogue, giving this show plenty of nicely delivered laugh lines, such as mom commenting on her fate, if she doesn’t complete her mission, that she will be left “floating in limbo,” to which her daughter replies, “We’re Lutheran. We don’t have limbo, we have potlucks.”
This cast, under the able direction of Dawn Hockemeyer, is anchored by the recalcitrant daughter, Kat, played with resistant defiance by Ali Kirwen. Kirwen quickly fell into her role. Countering Kat’s incredulous fate is her mother, in whom Tammy Sposeto gives thoughtful generosity while trying to understand her mission. Think Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The wonderful evolution of Kat’s sister, Brittney, begins with Corinn Brush’s masterful portrayal of “Britt” as the clueless ditz who is proud of her job at Hooters. When someone supports Britt by saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” Kat snaps back, “Brittney’s not a book, she’s a pamphlet.”
Troy Gould brings an unsettled spirit to his role as Dad, conflicted with the residual memories of his departed wife while trying to move on with a new relationship. The relationship is complicated, though, as it is with Trish (played with subtle honesty by Lisa Gould), who was Mom’s caretaker during her post-accident decline and eventual death. Next door neighbor Kevin, contemporary of the sisters, reveals a more attentive connection with Kat than seemed to be. Ethan Saltz gives us a conscientious Kevin, who adds much to the interplay of this ensemble. Spice this play with the quirky neighbor, Mrs. Norquist, given caricature-esque comedic outlandishness by physical comedienne, Barb Wagner, and you have some occasional dashes of Mrs. Norquist’s unfiltered indecency that season this comedy to a saucy level.
Ankeny Community Theatre seems to have developed a strong niche in the Central Iowa performing arts market with its smaller cast comedies. A truly all-volunteer community theater, Ankeny has embraced the efforts of this dedicated band as it presents an appealing range of shows through its Main Season and Studio Series of shows, giving regional performers plenty of opportunities to get involved. Their modest performing hall is a welcoming space for its audiences. Mom’s Gift provides live theatre patrons a refreshing, rewarding respite from everyday life at its most hospitable environs.
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