A review of the “last supper” play “The Big Meal,” staged by New Century Theatre Company at 12th Avenue Arts through Nov. 19.

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Savor that plate of diner food while you can, people. It may be your last repast.

Dan LeFranc’s cleverly constructed, stop-motion play “The Big Meal” (now in its Seattle debut at 12th Avenue Arts) is set in a casual dining establishment. And that hard-worked metaphor of a last supper is repeated, along with many other family rituals, through several generations of a clan that frequents the place.

Directed for New Century Theatre Company by Mikaela Pollock with a vigorous cast of seven adult and two child performers, this engaging if gimmicky one-act sprints along in about 90 minutes from the bumpy courtship of likable 20somethings Sam and Nikki up through their high and lows as parents and grandparents.


‘The Big Meal’

by Dan LeFranc. Through Nov. 19, a New Century Theatre Company production at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle; $30 (12avearts.org).

On Carol Wolfe Clay’s classic eatery set, no sooner is an offspring’s new boyfriend/girlfriend introduced, than he/she becomes an in-law. Someone announces she’s pregnant, and presto chango: There are her half-grown kids at the dining table, bickering over who gets to use the car.

Signs of marital trouble ripple through and are resolved, or not. Important birthdays are celebrated in a twinkle. And in an homage to the inevitable, the aged (and sometimes the young) are ushered by a silent waitress into that diner in the great beyond.

Very much in the vein of the 1931 Thornton Wilder play “The Long Christmas Dinner,” which also glides through generations via decades of get-togethers, “The Big Meal” is about the existential givens of birth, life and death, and (as in Wilder’s “Our Town”) how little we tend to appreciate it all as it whizzes by. It is also a glancing commentary on the splintering of the American family in our own time.

Nikki and Sam (who are played as young folk by Hannah Mootz and Conner Neddersen, in middle age by Betsy Schwartz and Darragh Kennan, and in senior years by Todd Jefferson Moore and Amy Thone) contend with materialistic, bratty kids (Julian Mudge-Burns and Maire Kennan) and increasingly doddering elders. And the difficulties of keeping close to loved ones who scatter geographically, get busy and barely stay in touch.

Such familiar concerns are, especially in the lighter first half, coated with the humorous candor redolent in many contemporary sitcoms. The characters are fairly generic (and, seemingly, all heterosexual and WASP). And as the pace of change accelerates, they can be confusingly interchangeable (are all kids this loudly disagreeable? Do all old people dodder?) despite Pollock’s attention to defining their exits and entrances.

However, the roles are fleshed out by NCTC actors capable of infusing them with individuality at every opportunity. For instance, Nedderson gives a brief but anguishing account of a rebellious son who drops out by heading into battle.

Moore and Thone differentiate aspects of the flinty quirkiness of a grandpa who obliviously cracks racist jokes, and the blunt-spoken grandma with an unquenchable thirst for cocktails. The two also touch your heart when Moore tucks in with gusto to a spaghetti dinner served up by that waitress/angel of death (portrayed by Jonelle Jordan), and when Thone is introduced to her first great-grandchild.

“We really started something, didn’t we?” she marvels, at the rush of time gone by — and the continuation of life that can make the whole human saga, from first date to last dinner, worthwhile.