Like watching a hilarious television sitcom, Since You Left Us is about a sister returning home to her dysfunctional family and learning to accept them for who they are. Susinn McFarlen has written characters that are just exaggerated enough to make you laugh out loud, yet authentic enough to represent people you know.
Fanny (Jillian Fargey) shows up at her sister Denny’s house in Vancouver after flying from Toronto to look for her runaway son, Danno (Mike Gill). Denny (Colleen Wheeler) has her dog Jack in a baby carrier and, having just come back from their mother’s birthday party at Hooters, is furious that Jack wasn’t allowed in the restaurant.
One by one, the rest of Fanny’s family arrives, including their mother, Dolly (Erla Faye Forsyth). Dolly keeps saying that they have to get back to Hooters and her birthday party, but they never make it out of the house.
Although the play takes place in Denny’s living room, it is full of action and family drama, including the revelation that Dolly is now sleeping with Fanny’s ex-boyfriend, Chuck (Derek Metz). Chuck, beer cooler in tow and beer always in hand, raises each new beer to the exclamation, “First one today!”
In the midst of the drunken birthday party, Fanny is trying to convince her son to come home with her to Toronto, but he insists on staying in Vancouver. Denny ardently defends her position of equating Jack (her dog) to Danno, and Dolly doesn’t give a damn about any of it; as long as she’s got a beer in her hand, she’s happy.
These ridiculous characters and their endearing dysfunction had me laughing more than I’ve laughed at the theatre in quite a while, and I loved all the Vancouver references. Dolly’s comments, for instance, that she lives on the North Shore “where all the normal people live,” and not in East Van, which she claims is an extremely dangerous neighbourhood. She also finds it absurd that someone would want to cross a bridge, go through the downtown core, and cross another bridge to see The Sound of Music at Arts Club and watch “someone else’s kids pretend to be the kids from the movie.”
An extremely talented cast, versatile set with details such as paw prints on every surface, and hilarious writing all came together to create this impressive piece of theatre.