Raining Cats & Daughters
Review by Hilary Prince
Margie Carmichael’s first play, Raining Cats & Daughters, opened with 10 performances in Nova Scotia and a single performance at Georgetown’s King’s Playhouse, PEI, to a packed house that brought the audience to its feet with calls for “author, author.”
This is a play “about death” according to Carmichael. However, it is also a play about family life—with all its raw, emotional dynamics, its warmth, and wonder—which takes place on a typical PEI farm. Its universal theme and brilliantly conceived script could undoubtedly take this play anywhere as audiences observe the foibles and weaknesses of our all too human condition.
The play’s MacDonald farm family, neighbours, aging bachelor brothers Bill and Bert, and rock solid Flora Hill, could be members of a rural community anywhere in North America although they are also unmistakably “Island.” Their everyday lives come spiced with wit, humour, and, at times, vicious barbs that keep the audience laughing and applauding as they recognize their own vulnerability in the characters.
Sixty-five year old George MacDonald, (Robert Seale) yearns for his Ontario-based vegetarian daughter Molly (Stacy Smith) to come home and “build a little house down the road” so that one day she will inherit her share and work alongside Kate, (Kiersten Tough) the daughter who already manages the farm and their stubborn, ailing father.
Molly arrives with her own emotional baggage to pay a belated birthday visit to Dad but really to borrow money to prop up her drought-stricken organic farm. Kate deeply resents the apparent favouritism Molly enjoys and sparks fly as old resentments and hurts surface, tempered by the kindly and wise Flora, who helped raise the girls for widowed George.
Family arguments ring true. Frustrations and anger mixed with love and caring towards those who share blood but seldom much else, let alone world views, are brilliantly portrayed by Carmichael’s characters.
Hilarious performances are given by Bill, played by Craig Wood, who was recently featured as vocalist and musician with the Don Messer’s Jubilee show in Summerside, and his brother Bert, played by David McClelland, last seen as Grandma in The Maritime Way of Life. The play then takes on a sombre mood with the sudden death of farmer George.
Inevitably pettiness and misunderstandings give way to compassion and caring. Despite the sombre occasion hilarity abounds, provided ingenously by Bill and Bert. They proudly offer bologna quiche to the family at the wake and “enjoy” planning who will die first as they keep overnight vigil beside George’s casket, which by this time contains a little bit of red earth and a dead mouse to ensure its safe return to its Maker.
Directed superbly by Mary-Colin Chisholm, also an actor and author with a string of credits to her name, Raining Cats & Daughters brings to the stage a cast of illustrious actors. Their impressive credits include theatre, television, and movies—performances with Mulgrave Road Theatre, Neptune Theatre, Theatre New Brunswick, and the Atlantic , Toronto, and Vancouver film festivals. Hats off to the productions crew—stage manager, technical director/lighting designer, costume designer, and set designer of duct tape fame.
Let’s hope this play returns to PEI for a long run. My traveling companion declared he had never seen anything better on Broadway and he would have “walked all the way to Georgetown” to see it. He wouldn’t have been alone.