Family reunions are never much fun, especially if they are taking place in the Flowering Fields Nursing Home where Gus Gunther lies in a coma, deaf and dying of cancer with his extremely dysfunctional family in attendance.
The body is there (Bob Vega) not moving, not saying a word yet suffering along with the rest of us through most of this darkly humorous comedy by Vicki Vodrey.
Ms. Vodrey has done her best to skewer the hospice care system, MacDonald’s Drive Through, and the ritual of Last Rites with her sometimes comic look into the lives of the Gunther Family, who to put it bluntly, are killing time waiting for Gus to stop breathing – complaining all the way about each other and just about everything else.
The youngest Catholic son Joe, who has the best written part and does wonders with it, is played by Rusty Sneary. He is HIV positive and negative about most other things as he is considered to be the Black Sheep of the family. His older brother Mike (Herman Johansen) has had the audacity to marry a Jew, the knitting needle wielding, badly accented Phyllis (Cynthia Hyer) who tries to take control. The middle son Ed (Craig Benton) is married to a dim witted yet sharp Cathy (Jennifer Mays). Their pain in the neck sister Lorraine (Peggy Friesen) who has not been in contact with them for two years appears late in this 90 minute show and it is with her entrance that everything comes together and we finally have a play to watch.
Abigail Walker is the Hospice worker who is there to help but doesn’t. The part could easily disappear from the script. An overly gracious and patient Shelly (Diane Bulan) who sporadically enters to check Gus’s vital signs which have included in his pre-coma days a pat on her backside (thus the title Hanky Panky) gives the quickest service I’ve ever seen in a hospital. Then there is the adorable Reverend Kirby (Evan White) who Joe immediately takes a shine to.
When Gus is about to expire and no one is there to administer The Last Rites it is Reverend Kirby who with the help of a computer print out leads the family in a wickedly funny, outrageous and yes moving finale.
In lieu of a hymn one of Gus’ favorite songs “When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin Along” is sung – taking on an entirely new and gloriously amusing meaning.
If only the rest of the play, directed by Richard Dines was as focused and up to this level of hilarity.
www.HankyPankythePlay.com Photo: Robert J. Meiners
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