A Beautiful Day in November on The Banks of The Greatest of The Great Lakes

A Beautiful Day in November on The Banks of The Greatest of The Great Lakes (written by Kate Benson, directed by Lee Sunday Evans) is one of three world premieres in rep at The New Georges Jam on Toast Festival. In this absurdist drama about an extended family coming together for Thanksgiving Dinner, the big day is represented as a professional athletic event overseen by a pair of TV sportscasters. Rather than commenting on Turkey Day football, their play-by-play focuses on the family’s every move.

The diverse ensemble cast is fantastic, the direction is flawless and the script is brilliant.

The show begins when the sportscasters, named @ and #, take their seats behind the microphones in the announcer’s booth. After speaking in the folksy banalities of old school TV sportscasters about the fine weather on this day of gratitude, they announce the arrival of three sisters into the Wembly household. The sisters’ names are Cheesecake, Cherry Pie and Trifle, and they are making an exhaustive effort to set up the dinner table. “And here they are centering the table,” says #. “An off-centered table can spell disaster on a day like today,” quips @. All furniture and props are mimed in stylized fashion, as the sisters glide about the wood-paneled floor strewn with multicolored circles, and straight and dotted lines: a collage of nonspecific sports courts layered upon each other.Likewise, the sportscasters use nonspecific sports terminology throughout the play, flowing seamlessly between talk of first quarters, 9th holes, quarterbacks, plays, pars and 7th inning stretches to describe the Thanksgiving feast preparations.

After struggling with the table and determining an extra leaf will be needed to accommodate everyone, the sisters are joined by their various relatives: their husbands, Fred, Ned and Ted; the Twins and their Wives; Trainer and Trainer’s Partner; Republican and His Wife; Smilesinger and Smilesinger’s Husband; Runnerman; Gumbo; Snapdragon and Grandada; and The Herd of Uncountable Great Grandbabies (who never actually appear in the flesh).

The great grandbabies are mercifully sleeping and everyone wants them to stay that way, so they are tucked away into the guest room as the family commences dinner prep. The characters lunge and swirl across the floor, setting the table, cleaning the kitchen, turning the turkey, making the gravy, all the while ruffling each others’ feathers and pushing each others’ buttons, as family is wont to do. The sportscasters maintain airs of suspense, reporting on every minute detail as if it’s a truly pivotal big game. “Ned is carving the bird. An anxious moment. Will the burned bird be a dry bird?” And so it goes until the story takes a surreal turn.

The diverse ensemble cast is fantastic, the direction is flawless and the script is brilliant. We can all relate to the stresses and absurdities of family gatherings, and Thanksgiving in particular, so you will laugh with recognition throughout. By the end, you’ll feel as if you just endured the trials and tribulations of your own Thanksgiving calamity. 

Reviews by Amanda Miller



The Blurb

“Kate is one of the most rigorous writers I have ever worked with. I love the way she thinks about language – her characters are so familiar but whey you look at the text on the page its very surprising. Every time I’m listening to the play I hear these small new details in the particular words that people do and don’t use in the play.

An example — one day in rehearsal, Kate said – “Yeah, I don’t think we need the ‘L’ at the end of that word – just say the word without the ‘L’ at the end.” And she was TOTALLY RIGHT. That regular old word sounds amazing and totally right without the ‘L’ at the end! Who knew? Kate Benson knew.” — director Lee Sunday Evans