Mom's Gift is a gift to the shire

Mom’s Gift, to the Sutherland Shire is a comedy filled with wisecracks, witty one liners and running jokes that send up local erks and perks with esoteric shire knowledge.

The Sutherland Theatre Company have taken a very funny script and cleverly adapted it to reflect the local community with running jokes and local references adding that extra touch.

Mom’s eternal presence permeates the lives of those she has left behind, her widower and two daughters. Her death after a car accident has devastated her family and in particular, her daughter Kat (Belinda Balhatchet) who was travelling at the time.

Kat’s relationship with her father (Tony Girdler) and sister, Brittany (Holly Johnston) lacks any kind of understanding or commitment. She has never really tried to get to know them or understand their motives.

After an incident with the police resulting from her struggle with anger management she is ordered to spend time with her family. This finds her back at home to celebrate her father’s birthday.

The ghost of her dead mother (Valerie McMullan) has also arrived. Mom is there to prove herself worthy of angel’s wings but she is unsure of whom or what she is supposed to heal. Unfortunately it’s only Kat who can see or hear her.

This is a sentimental story that looks at the broken relationships that can occur in any family, including a nuclear one. It shows the judgements we make and how they can limit our understanding and the depth of our commitment to each other. It takes the enforced confinement of the birthday celebration to reveal each character’s motives and eventually to their reconciliation. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear.

Director, Colleen Boyle, makes a smart move in setting this American play locally. The message is universal and is adeptly delivered in our local twang with local colour. The action unfolds over the course of a Shark’s game and references to Hooters and Port Hacking High give the impression that it was written for the shire.

Tony Girdler delivers Dad with the assured reality of a seasoned performer.

Belinda Balhatchet’s Kat is very likeable despite her determined outrage. Christiane Brawley’s Trish, as Dad’s new love interest, injects warmth and a grounded Australianess.

The cast is rounded out with Paul Byrne playing Kevin, Kat’s childhood love interest and Sandra Archer as colourful neighbour, Mrs Norquist.

Mom’s Gift may be an award winning 21 st century American comedy but this production has a very Aussie, very shire slant. A touching play, expelling laughs, expounding understanding.

Now playing at the Sutherland School of Performing Arts until March 10.

Tickets: www.thesutherlandtheatrecompany.com.au or by calling 9150 7574.