In the catalog of stories surrounding family dysfunction, the heftiest section may well be titled “The Holidays.” There’s just something about this time of year, isn’t there? With The Familiars, the Edge Theater Company brings a welcome new voice into the fold, and a fresh option in Denver’s typical holiday play lineup.
In her latest, playwright Ellen K. Graham, a Denver native and two-time Henry award winner, explores the starring role traditions play in the holiday experience. Honora Burdock has always kept a rather strict Christmas Eve schedule: the tree is decorated, cookies are packed in gift boxes six at a time, ugly sweaters are worn (red turtleneck dickeys included!) for the family photo at 6… But as her three children—Kath, Dom, and Chris—soon discover, this year Honora isn’t acting quite like herself. On a single, unchanging set (pictured), the family bickers, laughs, drinks, and even sings as the three siblings try to maintain the Christmas they know, and have long chided, without direction from the matriarch.
Everyone in the audience is sure to recognize something of themselves or their parents or others in the Burdocks. (Nice work on the title, Ellen.) While the story get monotonous at times (the gruff muttering of Dom, in particular, gets old quickly) it’s interrupted nicely with brilliantly timed quips from oldest sister Chris (played by Patty Ionoff, who is also the managing director of Edge). Running less than two hours, including intermission, The Familiars makes its point and makes it quickly—a pleasant contrast to the real-life madness that arises for all of us this time of year.
The Familiars plays through December 28 (Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. or 6 p.m.) at Edge Theater in Lakewood. Tickets are $18 to $24.