A nice family gathering

Cast members for the Stage Door production of “A Nice Family Gathering” prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. Seated, from left, are: Alexandra Ficken, Jeff K. Lester, Dina Shadwell and Erik Poger Abrahamsen. Standing, from left, are: Madison Welch, Rial Ellsworth and James Baskin.

Everybody loves a well-written family comedy with a strong cast of characters. The problem is, just as we begin to feel truly comfortable with them, the play ends and we take our leave.

Not so with last year’s Stage Door production, “A Nice Family Christmas.” We get to look in on these characters one more time around the Thanksgiving table in “A Nice Family Gathering.” Better still, there are plenty of new twists to befuddle the Lundeen family. Once again, this is a winning formula with a tight script, a terrific cast, and a sentimental message, just right for this time of year.

It’s a Thanksgiving before last year’s Christmas gathering — if you can figure that one out. In other words, we have a prequel. This time, though the patriarch is still dead, he’s back, as a ghostly host for the proceedings.

Writer/truck driver Carl (Erik Poger Abrahamsen) still feels inadequate. Older brother Michael (Jeff K. Lester) is under pressure, and Michael’s wife Jill (Alexandra Ficken) is taking fertility pills that make her an emotional mess. Their sister Stacy (Madison Welch) has secrets she might reveal, if anyone would listen. Mom (Dina Shadwell) shows troubling signs of forgetfulness. And family friend Jerry (Rial Ellsworth) just wants a quiet dinner…or does he? Then there’s the spectral father (James Baskin) who, like most ghosts, has unfinished business

This strong ensemble cast is expertly directed by Robert Egizio, Stage Door Players’ Producing Artistic director.

The production team includes Chuck Welcome (set design/scenic artist), Tom Priester (lighting design), Rial Ellsworth (sound design), Jim Alford (costume design), Kathy Ellsworth (properties design), and Sydney Lee (stage manager).

Who will be the biggest Thanksgiving turkey? Are “turkey dogs” really a thing? And will the cast take yet another chronological step backward with a Halloween gathering next year? Whatever the answers, they’re sure to be hilarious. Bring your family, and you’ll have one more occasion for which to give thanks.

“A Nice Family Gathering” continues through Dec. 8 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (no performance on Thanksgiving Day). However, there are two additional performances on Wednesday, Dec. 4 and Thursday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34 for adults, $31 for seniors, $24 for students and $16 for children under 12.

Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody, and on the web at www.stagedoorplayers.net. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 770-396-1726.

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