What’s more fun than a sprawling family comedy? Quirky characters with deep-rooted conflicts take things to the brink, but ultimately love pulls them back. Throw in a fish-out-of-water topcoat, like Italian immigrants settled in northern Canada, and the stage is set—literally—for fun.
Playwright Dina Morrone amps up the fun in Moose on the Loose at Theatre West, loosely based on true events. Morrone is ably supported by director Peter Flood and a cast of 12.
The show opens on the day career woman Gina Tappino (Erica Piccininni) is returning home to her frozen hometown after a long absence. Gina’s parents, Giuseppe (Stuart W. Howard) and Maria (Constance Mellors) speak—and misspeak—with thick Italian accents. They fight along a sliding scale from sparring to scarring. They, with grandparents Pina and Rudolfo Pupi (Laura Hames and Richard D. Reich) bring an two generations of hilarity.
Of their three children, Gina is the only one to flee the frozen tundra. They don’t understand why, but they’re glad she’s coming back. Gina’s brother Bruno (Rick Simone-Friedland) lies around watching the Weather Channel. He’s been dating a Native woman, Honabigi Nickaboine (Meg Lin) the family will meet for the first time at tonight’s homecoming dinner.
Gina’s sister Carmela (Deanna Gandy) has married a non-Italian, Darryl (Cecil Jennings and given Giuseppe and Maria what is, so far, their only grandchild, Tim (Darby Winn). Their family is coming as well.
As though Gina’s return weren’t momentous enough, a moose wanders into town and gets stuck in the camper of the Tappino’s next-door neighbor, a Polish woman they call “the polacca.” Although it’s hunting season, moose inside of city limits cannot be killed. Giuseppe grabs a gun anyway. Police are called and the chaos expands.
The moose of the title strolls through the proceedings mostly as a comic narrator. Actor James Lemire wears the foam antlers well, but the moose is a big dollop of extra icing on a cake of a show that doesn’t need him to impart its lessons about the importance of family. Losing the moose would trim some time without losing Lemire; he also plays the police chief who upends the family’s day by arresting the patriarch.
Because of frequent references to outside temperatures of 40 below zero, the taking off and putting on of coats and boots is part of the action. The coats look like they’ll be no match for the weather conditions. Wardrobe is the weak link in an otherwise satisfying and warm comedy.
Moose on the Loose is at Theatre West, Cahuenga, through May 21 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are available here.