Accessibly Live Off-Line – SUNDAY DINNER is “shocking at times”

Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills present their 4th entry in their 2019-20 season with the world premier of Tony Blake’s SUNDAY DINNER, a drama about a family who gathers for an evening meal on the title day of the week, only to receive more than what’s being served on the table.

The setting is a family residence located in The Bronx, New York. James Tabeek is Michael Matera. He’s a priest of the Catholic faith who arrives in town from his residency in Chicago shortly after the passing of his grandfather. He’s present to meet some of his family inside of the residence he grew up in, a place that his family has lived in for generations. There is his parents Eddie (John Combs), his mother Rose (Sharron Shayne), his Aunt Margaret (Michelle Schultz), along with his brother Richie (Kevin Linehan), his cousin Flip (Dennis Hadley), and his former sister-in-law Diane (Meghan Lloyd), who was once married to Richie. It appears that Michael’s mom and dad desires to sell their home while they can, as their Bronx neighborhood hasn’t gone through the gentrification as other nearby communities has witnessed over the recent years. The family could use the money for their home, especially Flip as he has medical bills to pay for his mother. Before a nice and plentiful Italian dinner is to be served (quite right as Italian is the family heritage), Eddie takes Michael aside to present a confession to him. (After all, he is a priest!) The confession involves something that Eddie arranged many years before, an act that would have been a benefit for the family. However, little episodes within the clan starts to revile itself and not necessarily for the better. In fact, things go from bad to worse! Before long, this family shows off their true colors to one another where everyone has a skeleton in their personal closets that needs to get out in more ways than one. This Sunday dinner isn’t really a dinner at all, but more than a one way trip to hell!

This new play, written and directed by Tony Blake, is loosely based upon an actual episode from the playwright’s own family where some skullduggery was performed many years before, only to have the clan know about it all long after its fact! Here, the playwright creates a heavy drama that features a cast of characters that speak their own minds toward one another. Although they may seem charming and serving for their good, not one lives up to this trait. In other words, it’s a dysfunctional family at their worst for a kindred meal that isn’t Thanksgiving!

The cast of six performers in this production are very fit for the roles they represent. James Tabeek as “Father” Michael is the humble appearing man of the cloth that isn’t as holy as he supposedly lives up to. His parents, Eddie and Rose as portrayed by John Combs and Sharron Shayne, are from the the “old school” variety of Italian parents that worked hard in what they did to raise a decent family. Kevin Linehan as Richie is the badass brother that sports a cocky attitude and says and does things through his own concerns rather than what others may think. Dennis Hadley as cousin Flip lives up to his name as being a bit flippant, but never reaching the level as Richie does. Michele Schultz as Auntie Margaret is another old school Italian always ready for a stiff drink and a smoke whenever she can get away for a quick shot and puff. And Meghan Lloyd as Diane is a woman what is trying to get her life back together after a rocky marriage from Richie, and the ability to raise a twelve year old son on her own with little (if any) support from her ex. These characters is yet another snapshot of a family many others (this writer included) can relate to!

Theatre 40’s residential set designer Jeff G. Rack creates a setting of the Matera homestead that shows off the dining and living rooms areas with furnishing and decor that comes from another era making their place very neat and proper for how it all stands.

SUNDAY DINNER can be shocking at times based upon the opinions and viewpoints expressed through its characters. This is what makes this play shine throughout! Granted, what is stated among the clan may become as a bit offensive. However, this is a family that can be labeled as a brood that is just as “F”-ed up as any other family that doesn’t come from a tired TV sitcom. It’s just another part of the life and times of a tribe that nobody wants to be part of! (Yours perhaps??)