|Audiences will enjoy spending some holiday time with this quirky
extended family in the Winters Theatre Company's production of
"In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (Who Should Be Shot)." Courtesy photo
“In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (Who Should Be Shot)” by Steve Franco may never be considered great literature, or be performed on Broadway, but it’s a fun play that will get anyone in the mood for those big family holiday gatherings approaching.
Now entertaining Winters Theatre Company audiences at the Winters Community Center Theater, this production is directed by Jesse Akers and displays all the things that I love about the Winters Theatre Company.
Akers is also credited with set design and it is one of the better-looking Winters sets, entirely utilitarian, but just … charming.
The show starts and ends with a chorus of seven young children singing carols, but this is no professional choir. It’s just a bunch of kids holding music sheets and singing, mostly on key and looking adorable. Before the start of Act 2 they sing a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” with drum accompaniment by Hannah Palchik.
As the show begins, Dad (Phil Pittman) and daughter Beth (Caitlin Richards) are getting the house ready for the quirky extended family to arrive for Christmas Eve dinner. Mom (Anita Ahuja) is flying home from a quick business trip.
As the often petulant, distant, somewhat bored teenage daughter, Richards nails it. Even if her fellow actors weren’t so much fun to watch, her performance alone is a good reason to see this play.
Pittman is the level-headed Dad who tries to keep everyone calm despite the trauma that is about to envelop all of them.
Cranky neighbor Mrs. Draper (Germaine Hupe) pops in a few times to remind Dad to light the outside Christmas lights or the other neighbors will be upset.
In pairs, the guests begin to arrive. Bunny (Mom’s sister) and husband Bud arrive first. Donna Akers is wonderful as the aunt who loves to gossip and to run things, while Brad Haney as Bud seems to be most comfortable in an overstuffed chair, with a beer in his hand watching football on TV.
Aunt Rose (Laure Olson) and Uncle Leo (Scott Graff) are in their 80s, wobbly on their canes, and endearingly cantankerous. Rose is the aunt who pinches your cheek and questions you on your life. She’s 83 years old, she’s not afraid to tell you, and nobody is going to boss her around.
Leo and Bud are salty old geezers who derive great pleasure in arguing over just about everything. Graff is wonderfully blustery, trying to find the right words and tripping over his tongue.
Into this mix come Tony and Vinny, two petty thieves who have just robbed a store and don’t want to hurt anyone, but since their car broke down, they need a place to hide out until the coast is clear. Tony (Tyler Tufts) is the leader, a tough guy who isn’t quite comfortable with his role and doesn’t know what to make of this weird family he is holding captive.
Vinny (Manny Lanzaro) follows Tony’s lead, but is terribly inept and obviously new at this criminal business.
Others in the cast include Elizabeth Williams as cousin Tracy; William Haggerty as Beth’s boyfrend Paul, with electric blue hair, who has very little to say; Alex Harris as Paul’s sister Emily; Alison Hapworth Eldridge as their mother, Mrs. Wakowski; and Robert Williams as a police officer (Williams shares the role with Trent Beeby).
The “aw shucks” conclusion is predictable, but charming nonetheless. It will warm the cockles of your heart and get you in the mood for the holidays.