By SHERI RADFORD
Like many Thanksgiving feasts, this one is stuffed a bit too full for comfort, though it does ultimately satisfy. Written and directed by Governor General’s Award–winner Kevin Loring, Thanks for Giving tells the story of Nan (Margo Kane) and her family. Nan is a First Nations woman whose second husband, Clifford (Tom McBeath), is a white man and avid hunter who never even attempts to understand the issues facing Indigenous people. Nan’s daughter, Sue (Andrea Menard), battles addiction and pain of both the physical and physiological varieties. Nan’s grandchildren John (caacumhi – Aaron M. Wells), Clayton (Deneh’Cho Thompson) and Marie (Tai Amy Grauman) each have their own demons to face. Also taking a place at the strife-filled Thanksgiving table is Sam (Leslie Dos Remedios), Marie’s lesbian lover who is posing as her roommate.
The action kicks off with Clifford shooting a bear, an act that has repercussions both in the family and in the greater world, as Clifford ultimately faces prison time and a fine substantial enough to bankrupt the family. The first act takes place during one long Thanksgiving dinner full of drama and revealed secrets, while the second act skips through the following years. Throughout the two-hour run time, the play examines issues relating to the treatment of Indigenous people, Native storytelling traditions, the lingering effects of intergenerational trauma, homosexuality, family secrets, addiction, violence, colonialism and more—a lot to swallow, indeed. Thanks for Giving is at its best when showing small, relatable family interactions, especially involving the stellar Margo Kane, whose deadpan delivery garners huge laughs, and her on-stage husband, Tom McBeath. But the play falters when it veers into lecture territory, in particular one long diatribe delivered by Tai Amy Grauman over the dinner table, which feels like it was lifted directly from a university textbook. Despite these flaws, the play is such an enjoyable meal overall that it might even be worth a second helping.
The world premiere of Thanks for Giving runs until Nov. 4 on the Granville Island Stage.