HAVING HOPE AT HOME
Once or twice a season, the Gateway presents a summer-theatre style rural family-relationship comedy, as though people choose to live in Richmond in order to stay in touch with their simple country roots. David S. Craig’s Having Hope at Home, originally written for the Blyth Festival in rural Ontario, is set there, on a farm, and features quite a few cow jokes.
It’s an amusing play, though formulaic and really a one-act dragged out into two. The dramatic family entanglements are potentially more interesting than usual in this genre because they stretch across three generations. And the cast in Simon Johnston’s production does a good job of making the stock characters sympathetic and, mostly, likeable.
Attractive and always delightful Anna Cummer is Carolyn, who has disappointed her parents by dropping out of university, marrying Quebecois farmer Michel (Jeremy Radick, in a terrifically sweet performance), and living on the dairy farm of her grandpa Russell (Richard Newman). She has invited her parents to dinner in order to prove her competency to them. But she’s nine months pregnant, is having her baby at home with midwife Dawn (Lesley Ewen), and her father—who happens to be head of gynecology at some big hospital—seriously disapproves of home births.
So the first act is built around the seriously strained comic conceit that Carolyn and her allies Michel and Russell can keep from gynecologist Dad the truth that 1) she’s in labour, and 2) Dawn is a midwife. Mom (a nicely snooty Lisa Bayliss) is too concerned with propriety to notice much but what’s Dad Bill’s excuse? Gerry Mackay has to play a one-note pissed-off Dr. Father Knows Best, blinded by his disappointment in his daughter and his anger at his own father, Russell, whose curmudgeonly one-liners Newman turns into the play’s biggest laughs.
In the second act Carolyn has her baby, we learn what caused the life-long estrangements, and they are resolved in much less time than it takes the turkey to cook.Phillip Tidd’s expansive farmhouse interior set is eye-catching, and the actors manage to keep things buoyant right to the end.