Theater

On the Menu: A Holiday-Themed Play That’s Both Funny and Deep

by

Every Thanksgiving, families gather to eat enormous dinners and watch football on TV. But what if the family dinner were the big game — complete with loudmouthed commentators and embarrassing fouls, heartbreaking fumbles and Hail Mary miracles? That’s the premise of Kate Benson’s delightful play, A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes,
directed by Lee Sunday Evans and produced by New Georges and Women’s Project Theater.

Great Lakes follows a family of quirky Thanksgiving hopefuls — led by their hostess, Cheesecake (Brooke Ishibashi) — who prep their banquet in a wood-paneled “stadium,” its floor painted with loopy patterns like a hallucinatory basketball court. Peering down from a press box, two commentators (Ben Williams and Hubert Point-Du Jour) analyze the family members’ feats of dexterity and endurance: Can the contentious clan squeeze around the dinner table? Will they achieve optimal turkey texture, and gravy with proper depth of flavor?

Evans’s vivid choreography and excellent cast make this holiday “match” compulsively entertaining. But Benson’s aims are bigger than whimsy: In its final moments, Great Lakes becomes gruesomely poetic, widening its scope to meditate on evolution, generational struggle, even the fate of the species. Such an about-face could be incongruous, but this one is smart — implying that even stressful traditions are mere diversions from a larger darkness just beyond.