Everyone can relate to the shenanigans dealing with relatives at Christmastime. It’s all part and parcel of what can make the holiday season stressful, but present treasured moments at the same time.
The Cornwall clan brings those elements to life in the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of the Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas, on stage from Nov. 17 to Dec. 31. It’s the sequel to 2011’s Countryside Christmas when the Cornwalls were huddled at a cabin.
Playwrights Nicolle Nattrass and Mark DuMez were inspired to bring this character family back based on the audience response for another run in the context of Christmas in the mid-1980s, although in a sunny vacation atmosphere this time.
“The premise of it is the father is surprising the family with a trip for Christmas,” explained director Barb Tomasic.
“These are flawed folks with, at times, very self-serving agendas,” noted DuMez. “We’ve taken a lot of liberties, most based on real-life experiences and then, well, changed for effect. But in the cracks of each Cornwall and in the kindnesses of their hosts – there is hope and there is love. And in those same cracks and kindnesses, at this special time of year, is the possibility of a change for the good, of seeing one another with fresh eyes in new light and of revealing hidden depths and insights that may have been just waiting to peel away.”
“While the Cornwalls may be more quirky than most, it is their love and the values of their family that help them face any challenge that comes their way on this All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas,” observed Nattrass.
Veteran actor David Adams plays Harry, the frugal, but well-meaning, dad; Marlee Walchuk portrays mom Judy, a soft-hearted artist; Mack Gordon lends his acting skills as Tommy, the rowdy son who still has a lot to learn; Emily Henney is Sissy and Alexander Nicoll is Kyle, doting newlyweds with a rather obvious secret; Andrea Pizarro is Dalila, an ambitious resort attendant who catches Tommy’s eye; and Alen Dominguez is eager-to-please resort activity leader Fernando.
Tomasic previously directed Footloose at the Chemainus Theatre. Adams once directed Tomasic in a production of Sound Of Music in Vancouver so the tables are being turned.
It’s a joy for Tomasic to be in Chemainus again and wrapping herself into the script where the Cornwalls are entrenched in tradition and ritual, but this adventure takes their holiday season to a whole new level.
“Everybody’s dynamic comes out,” explained Tomasic. “There’s also some beautiful poignant moments in the show.”
The melding of the Christmas spirit is brought into context based on the setting.
“We didn’t want to do a North American Christmas in Cancun,” Tomasic indicated. “We wanted to bring these two together.
“There’s lots of situations people will recognize as well.”
The family feel of the show at this festive time of the year makes it perfect for an all-ages audience.
“The whole family can come,” said Tomasic. “There’s nothing adult about it. There’s something for everyone.”
The merriment is boosted with a diverse range of holiday music. Nico Rhodes, on keyboard, directs the live tunes, joined by Marisha Devoin on bass, and Brad Shipley on guitar.