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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: 2017 ‘Thanksgiving on Serendipity Lane’ delicious comedy

Critic At Large

Green Bay Community Theater

Scene from 2017 production of “Thanksgiving on Serendipity Lane” of Green Bay Community Theater. (Photo by the late Chris Weis, who was active in theater throughout the region)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A solid recording of a jolly good comedy performed in front of a live, laughing audience… Hey, bonuses can be found in the online performance world these days.

And the project is local: Green Bay Community Theater’s 2017 production of “Thanksgiving on Serendipity Lane” by area playwright Kathy Campshure.

The troupe is presenting a video of the comedy play online for free (donations accepted) Dec. 10-13 at this link: https://www.broadwayondemand.com/. Instructions are on the theater’s Facebook page.

From the theater: “We are ever so grateful to author Kathy Campshure for giving us permission to show this delightful play and to Kathy Treankler who funded this archival copy.”

Kathy Treankler also has a leading role in the play.

Theaters often record performances like making a home movie or video. This project is many steps above that.

The performance of Nov. 16, 2017, was recorded with multiple cameras at the troupe’s Robert Lee Brault Playhouse by Mark Winter Audio & Video Production Services of Green Bay.

Many levels of quality are seen on the virtual performance world these days, but this recording has the bonuses of the live audience, clear picture and the flow of a performance as it happened. It’s “A” grade.

The video is introduced by Dave Zochert, board president of the theater, who notes the financial and other challenges put on the troupe by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Below is a reprise of my review of the opening-night performance.

This is the first time I have been able to look back on a production and enjoy it again.

***

Creative: Playwright – Kathy Campshure; director – Kristi Skrinska; assistant director/stage manager – Deborah Oettinger; master carpenter – Noah Villarreal; light/sound designer – Peter Wojtowicz; set dresser – Sandy Zochert; costume designer – Cindy Stein; props designer – Karen Konshak; hair/make-up – Carolyn Bruce

Cast: Jane – Kathy Treankler; George – Bill Sergott; Tony – Kristofer Holly; Candy – Jami Attaway Thompson; Helen – Sonya King; Lisa – Mariah Engeldinger; Rog – Mike Horowitz; Cindy – Mya Ballerstein

Running time: One hour, 45 minutes

***

Family Thanksgiving dinners, everybody knows, can be doozers.

Creating one of the dooziest (nutty, etc.) is the goal of Green Bay Community

Theater’s production of “Thanksgiving on Serendipity Lane” (that ran Nov. 9-19, 2017).

It starts with the approach that what is going to transpire on stage is like a football game. As the audience arrives, sounds from a football stadium are heard. Crowd sounds, band music, the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a general aura of lotsa people doing lotsa stadium-y stuff is in the air. The pre-show announcement is by two male announcers saying footbally stuff that applies to theatery stuff. Like: “The team’s ready, Frank.”

This all sets the tone that there’s going to be a rumble.

And there is, in comedy-theater ways.

Jane and George are hosting their first family Thanksgiving Day dinner in their new home on Serendipity Lane. “You know what this means?” Jane says. George replies, “Yeah, a 30-year mortgage at 6½ percent.”

Soon to arrive are the couple’s college-student daughter, Lisa, who brings along an uninvited guest, Rog; Grandma Helen, who’s in a wheelchair; and son Tony, who is to bring not only his wife, Candy, and their “princess” child, Cindy, but the focal element of the meal – the cooked turkey.

The good news: Never-on-time Tony, et al, are on time this time. The rest of the news: Everything goes south from there.

I’ll try not to give the gags away, but a key element is Helen’s mouth and attitude. She announces she’s 86 and doesn’t care what she says. So everyone is fair game, and with this family of foible-filled folks, that’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

The production has a from-here familiarity. That starts with the playwright, Kathy Campshure, who lives in the region and writes plays with regularity for Oconto’s Machickanee Players, where “Thanksgiving on Serendipity Lane” premiered in 2015. Campshure’s characters are your friends, neighbors, or, too bad for you, your family members. Director Kristi Skrinska and creative folks at Green Bay Community Theater add localizing touches in the dining room set – framed Green Bay Packers stock on the back wall, a cheesehead hanging on a rack in the hallway, a framed jersey (#50 HAWK) on a side wall, etc.

The pre-show sounds and the Packers flavorings are individual to this production. They were not in the original. One thing that was in the original that’s not here is a book that Grandma Helen was reading as she was wheeled in: “Kama Sutra,” which said volumes about her character.

Green Bay Community Theater’s cast has a raucous, jolly time with the material. All the characters are send-ups.

Lisa (Mariah Engeldinger) is miffed because the best tragedy she can muster gets trumped.

Rog (Mike Horowitz) is the interloper dazzled by this family’s “normal.”

Cindy (Mya Ballerstein) is the snotty kid, par excellence.

Her dad, Tony (Kristofer Holly) wears the dunce cap well.

His wife, Candy (Jami Attaway Thompson), tops her brat-princess child by being the Drama Queen.

Helen (Sonya King) is like a confetti cannon of insults – PFUUUUMMMM – out they come, landing everywhere like little nuisances.

Jane (Kathy Treankler) is a wife who envisions things going just right, overlooking what she’s got for starter material.

George (Bill Sergott) is a guy guy who is kind of lippy as the challenged king of the castle.

On opening night, this entourage created many moments of audience reaction as the play bubbles along. Certain things Grandma Helen said got “Whoa”-type responses. While the play doesn’t always speed along – teasing interactions instead of getting to the point – it sure churns up comedic bursts. To complete the football analogy, give the production six points as a touchdown as a team effort.

Give Bill Sergott an extra point for being on top of his voluble, modern-guy character the whole way. Give Bill Sergott and Kathy Treankler an extra point for their homey husband-wife interchanges that open and close the performance. Give Sonya King a two-pointer in extra points for unleashing the rhythm of the devil-may-care persona.

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