By Jim Rutter
For THE INQUIRER
After seeing Montgomery Theater’s production of Sean Grennan’s Making God Laugh, I'm thinking that Biblical standards of humor have declined a bit since Job’s time.
Grennan’s play spans 30 years, beginning in Thanksgiving 1980 and progressing through Christmas 1990, New Years Y2K and Easter, circa 2010. On each of these holidays, a trio of siblings learns the painful lesson that you can't go home again. The audience, by witnessing their lives progress from youthful promise to adult discontent, gets beat over the head by Grennan’s continually insisted upon theme: if you want to make god laugh, create plans so he can delight in their frustration.
Anyone that watched scene one could set Vegas odds on each character’s destiny. The laugh-a-minute sitcom approach to comedy and completely inorganic approach to the dialogue finds few chuckles (and grows tiresome); larger laughs come from the inappropriate way in which the excellent Maureen Torsney-Weir straightforwardly derides her daughter’s weight and appearance.
Although each scene escalates in absurdity (the house turns into a bunker during Y2K), Grennan frustrates these genuine attempts at humor by trying to tuck in sexual repression and by tacking on a disturbing denouement. Tom Quinn’s direction struggles to balance either approach and the cast can’t crystallize a disappointment that drags across decades.
Bob McDonald (as the eldest son Richard) nearly succeeds in eliciting all these elements in spite of the script's haphazard reaching. Though he plays most of his early scenes like a meth-addled Jim Carrey (think Ace Ventura), for a five minute monologue that caps Act One, he becomes a modern day Uncle Vanya, that exemplar of crushed promise that we neither fully laugh at nor pity, but who, in his attempt to defy the destiny of his own character, embodies the miserable, laughable (mis)fortune that could befall anyone. If only the rest of the production could keep up, we'd catch a glimpse of the tragicomedy called life that only a god could find funny.
Making God Laugh. Presented through December 8 at Montgomery Theater, 124 N. Main St. Souderton. Tickets: $27 to $35. Information: 215-723-9984 or montgomerytheater.org