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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

SFCC’s Spartan Theatre balances the heartfelt and the humorous with play “Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)”

It’s not often that a Christmas play features a grieving mother and a vindictive tween “addicted to Barbies and Mountain Dew” alongside Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford – but this one does.

Students at Spokane Falls Community College will perform “Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)” at the Spartan Theatre Friday through Sunday for its final weekend of production.

The play, written by New York playwright Sheila Callaghan, is a Christmas play in that it takes place throughout the week leading up to the holiday.

“I would say that sure, it’s a Christmas play, not your traditional one, for sure,” clarified Jeremy Whittington, scenic director of the 80-minute show and a new member of the Spartan Theater’s staff.

It is the first play that Whittington has helped create as an adjunct professor at SFCC.

The story follows the relationship between a mother, Clara, and daughter, Janice, as they mourn, each in their own way, the loss of Janice’s father at the one-year anniversary of his death from a tragic accident.

“The overall arching of the play is just how relationships grow and evolve based on what’s happening around us,” Wittington said.

Patty Garegnani, who plays Clara, is also the play’s costume designer. She described the play as “a roller coaster.”

“It’s like you leave and you’re like, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ ” she said. “It has some really tender moments in it.”

Still, the play has its fair share of comedy.

“I think it’s one of those plays where people will laugh, and they’ll get teary-eyed,” Whittington said. “There’s some heartstrings that are pulled in this play, for sure, but there are other moments that are just so ridiculous that you just have to laugh.”

Garegnani agreed. She said the work, and the director’s interpretation of it, does a good job of balancing the heartfelt and the humorous.

“People get kind of quiet when there’s these kind of emotional scenes and then something really funny will happen,” Garegnani said. “It’s perfect. It gives it levity so it lightens the mood so people aren’t just sitting there like they want to cry.”

Whittington gave a few examples of the humor in “Crumble.”

”(The aunt Barbara) is an old cat lady and she’s sitting on a giant can of tuna on the set and feeding her 57 cats that she has,” he said.

What’s more, the apartment Clara and Janice live in is alive and has a mind of its own. Harrison Ford and Justin Timberlake, the respective celebrity crushes of the mother and daughter, make appearances attempting to console the melancholy pair.

Garegnani said she has enjoyed playing Clara.

“Oh, my gosh, it’s been wonderful,” Garegnani said of her experience so far. “I really like this role and it called to me. … I am a mom and I have two kids and I can relate in so many ways to the mother.”

She said SFCC has helped her along.

“I really feel like I can be who I want to be in the show and I’m welcomed by my cast and my director and everybody on our team,” she said.

Whittington hopes the upcoming performances will draw a crowd.

“This is a very interesting play that I think everyone should come see,” he said.

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.