A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Hiroko Masuike
  • NY TIMES

  • DAILY NEWS

  • TM

Opening Night:
January 12, 2015
Closing:
February 7, 2015

Theater: New York City Center / 130 West 55th Street, New York, NY, 10019

Synopsis: 

For those of you just tuning in, Thanksgiving is already in progress here at Wembly kitchen. The stands are nice and full; it’s quite a crowd that’s gathered. They’re in for a real treat.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes

    Dinner Is Also a Sport

    Charles Isherwood

    January 16, 2015: The holidays and all the fraught togetherness they can bring are now in the rearview mirror. But if you’re still smarting over that unkind word from a brother-in-law, or a passive-aggressive takedown from Mom or Dad, some solace may be found by attending a performance of A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes, a quirky comedy by Kate Benson that cleverly transforms an extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner into a fiercely fought competitive sport. Trust me, any tensions that arose between your siblings or cousins during the course of a family assembly will pale in comparison with the peculiar, ultimately macabre goings-on in Ms. Benson’s dark farce about the ego-devouring aspects of family life. The buffed wooden floor of the set, by Sara C. Walsh, resembles a basketball court, although the traditional markings are replaced by a more dizzying design. We appear to be inside a gym of some kind, but one equipped with a skybox, where two announcers — Ben Williams and Hubert Point-DuJour — provide play-by-play and color commentary on the action below them. In the course of the play’s 75-minute running time, their near-constant annotation of the interactions in a large family will surreally slide among images from football, baseball, racing, golf and other sports. Dashing around the course, or the field, are three middle-aged sisters with names drawn from a vintage Betty Crocker dessert cookbook. Cheesecake (Brooke Ishibashi) is the host of this year’s feast, and so the responsibility of preparing most of the meal devolves onto her nervous shoulders. Her sisters, Cherry Pie (Heather Alicia Simms) and Trifle (Nina Hellman), help with arranging the furniture — whether the table will fit all the guests becomes an issue of serious contention — and also pitch in when Cheesecake is overwhelmed.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes

    Thanksgiving as competition, complete with commentators

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    January 15, 2015: The family gathering gets fresh coats of abstraction and theatricality from writer Kate Benson and director Lee Sunday Evans. They imagine preparing a Thanksgiving megameal as a major competition — if not a blood sport in A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes. This funny feast comes with two sportscasters perched above the stage and calling every move. There are bitter rivalries, a Hail Mary save (the gravy!) and some very badly banged-up players. But there are no props, whether it’s the elaborately set table or turkey getting roasted, er, incinerated, thanks to the family black sheep. We also don’t see the “horde of babies” who join the huddle for a deliciously dark twist.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes

    Kate Benson's new comedy explores a family Thanksgiving in ways you'd never expect

    David Gordon

    January 16, 2015: It's the kind of shocked expression that occurs after you see a truly amazing ballgame. The look on your face is a dumb, mouth-agape grin. You're slightly giggling and have the urge to cheer at the top of your lungs. But you're not watching a sports match. You're watching an innovative piece of theater. In Kate Benson's incomparable A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes, sport and theater are equated in ways you'd never expect. As directed with a perfectly in-tune idiosyncratic style by Lee Sunday Evans, Benson's debut comedy, a coproduction of New Georges and Women's Project Theater at New York City Center - Stage II, will leave you breathless as it disassembles the time-tested genre of family play. Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion for a marriage of athletics and drama. After all, how many times have people gotten into arguments between the festive holiday meal and the ritualistic viewing of the annual football game? Her setting is a typical Midwestern home that is about to be infiltrated with many generations of relations. Cheesecake (Brooke Ishibashi, the perfect OCD mom) is in charge; it's her house, after all. Her sisters, Cherry Pie (Heather Alicia Simms) and Trifle (Nina Hellman) join her in the kitchen and dining room. Will they need an extra table to fit everyone comfortably? In that case, they'll also require multiple plates of every dish. They simply cannot have a repeat of the Gravy Boat Episode of 1979. No one has ever forgotten that.

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