Average Family

At Childrenís Theatre Company through October 6 (612.874.0400)

Larissa FastHorse sets Average Family, her tale of authenticity and family redemption, in about the last place one would think to look: reality TV. Nathan Steven Monés, patriarch of the constantly bickering Roubidoux family, sees a call for contestants on a survival show and picks up the phone, deciding to gamble reason and sanity in the hopes of bringing his wife and three children into harmony.

It's a daft-as-hell notion, although you know it's going to work in the end. Yet a twist arrives when the family shows up on the set. They're pitted against the motherless Monroes, crazed semi-survivalists with an alarming skill set perfectly suited for the competition. Complicating matters is the producer's decision to cast the Native American Roubidoux fivesome as teepee-dwelling Indians (never mind that they're lifelong city folk).

A kid and her kin: Raven Bellefleur tries to survive too much family togetherness
Rob Levine
A kid and her kin: Raven Bellefleur tries to survive too much family togetherness

What follows is weird, at times alarmingly intense, and finally genuinely moving. Roubidoux daughter Mikenzie (Raven Bellefleur) receives a book called The Dakota and Their Ways from the Monroes' youngest, Sarah (Elaine Patterson), and eventually bonds with mom Debra (George Keller) in a bid to save the family from mounting futility and a dangerous feud with the Monroes that turns positively harrowing. The action ends on a sweet, positive note that avoids the taste of saccharine—when the Roubidoux clan drop their contentious ways, they don't stop being interesting, much like this show itself.