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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Family show takes stage at Weathervane Playhouse

4/3/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Jim Fippin and Tari Lyn Bergoine star in Weathervane Playhouse’s production of “Life With Father.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — Weathervane Playhouse achieves its goal of being a true community theater with its production of “Life With Father,” which is playing through April 13.

This gentle play has a large cast of 16 and a variety of age ranges, from children to senior citizens.

Almost everyone has seen a version of “Life With Father.” The show opened on Broadway in 1939 and closed in 1947 after 3,224 performances. In 1947, the film adaptation was released and was nominated for several Academy Awards. In 1953, the TV series started and ran for two years. Of course, community theaters across the country have produced this script and, in fact, Weathervane first staged “Life With Father” in 1948, according to Weathervane officials.

The story deals with the family of Clarence Day Sr. (Jim Fippin), known as the father, and his wife, Vinnie (Tari Lyn Bergoine), the mother. They have four sons, assorted relatives and friends and five housekeepers.

Father is the definitive curmudgeon. He wants his home run efficiently, on time and to be financially stable. He blusters, shouts and roars. However, only minutes into the production, the audience should know that mother makes the decisions and father writes the checks.

The show is performed in six scenes, each with a separate problem or issue. However, one plot point is an over-riding arc. Father has not been baptized. Mother knows he won’t get into heaven without being baptized, and she won’t be happy in heaven without father.

In one scene, mother becomes ill and father calls in two doctors and the minister. Father is so sure she will not survive this illness that he promises her he will be baptized.

Clarence Day Jr. (Eric Lucas) and his brother John Day (Will Price) have found a job selling bottled medicine door-to-door. When their mother becomes ill, they read the directions on the bottle. One of the problems it solves is “female complaints.” They think the medicine is perfect for their mother because she’s female and she complains of being ill. So, they pour several spoons full of this mysterious medicine in her tea.

She does recover, but a neighbor gives some of the medicine to his dog and the dog dies. 

The script was based on stories by Clarence Day Jr., which were first published in The New Yorker magazine and then compiled for publication as a book in 1935.

The stories were dramatized by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.

Scenic/lighting designer Alan Scott Ferrall created a large rambling set that looks like a home from the late 19th century. 

Costume designer Jasen Smith did a superior job with the costumes, especially the gowns and hats for the women.

The cast is excellent. I am pleased to see Fippin get a leading role, which permits him to display his considerable talents on stage.

Bergoine creates a Vinnie who is properly befuddled but always loving and kind.

The actors who play their sons do a masterful job. I’m especially pleased with Owen Desberg, a fifth-grader, and Spencer Desberg, a second-grader. I look forward to seeing them in other plays.

Price, an eighth-grader, has a good deal of acting experience.

Lucas, a recent graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, makes his role important to the show. He is the son who is about to leave for Yale and who is falling in love.

Director Sarah May keeps the big cast in line and makes the evening in the theater fun for the audience.

“Life With Father” is a production for all of the family. This script is a good example of what I refer to as gentle theater.

For ticket information, call 330-836-2626.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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