In Alix Sobler's sparkling new comedy Some Things You Keep, transplanted New Yorker Rebecca is still smarting about her father's five-year-old reluctance to visit her new home in Winnipeg.

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Rebecca (Alix Sobler) defends her life to her father, Harry (Daniel Kash).

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Rebecca (Alix Sobler) defends her life to her father, Harry (Daniel Kash).

In Alix Sobler's sparkling new comedy Some Things You Keep, transplanted New Yorker Rebecca is still smarting about her father's five-year-old reluctance to visit her new home in Winnipeg.

Only when the 27-year-old Jewish animal shelter worker appeals to Harry to personally bring her a family treasure -- her dead mother's expensive diamond ring from Tiffany's -- does he acquiesce and make the trip to River City. Actually, Rebecca is reaching for the brass ring of parental approval of her life choices.

Dad's hardly in her modest apartment door before their mutual irritation flares up. The distance between them is much more than the 2,000 kilometres between cities.

With his dry sense of humour, Dad snipes derisively at her international affair. He pokes fun at her non-Jewish, live-in boyfriend, "the Mormon," who is actually a Mennonite. He dumps on her job and her sketchy neighbourhood, but mostly on Winnipeg. To him, the city is flat, colourless and symbolic of her accepting second best, grossly lowering her ambition and expectations.

Rebecca finally explodes, "It's not like North Korea," a line that drew a gale of laughter from WJT's appreciative opening night audience Thursday.

The frustration will be recognizable to many new Winnipeggers who must repeatedly explain their moronic choice to live in a "one-horse" hometown. Thematically, there is a lot about Sobler's first full-length script that is familiar and meaningful -- children craving parental approval, parents who think they know what's best for their kids and the disappointment generated when offspring turn their backs on the family's religious and cultural foundation.

It's ultimately hard to say how much of Some Things You Keep is autobiographical, but there is a strong whiff of reality to the lively 90-minute WJT season-closer. If Rebecca's defence of her lifestyle has not been spoken by Sobler -- a native New Yorker whose father has yet to visit her in Winnipeg in five years -- in her real life, it certainly feels like an internal conversation she has had many times.

The playwright does double duty as an actor, playing Rebecca, a young woman who gets mad while trying to explain how happy she is. A familiar face from many Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival productions, Sobler is impressive her character manoeuvres through the tricky emotional minefield that is her relationship with her father, played by out-of-towner Daniel Kash.

Harry is all subtext, not-so-subtly undermining his daughter's life choices in the hopes she will end her foolishness, jump in his Mercedes and head back with him to the Big Apple. Kash never breaks a smile as he needles Rebecca. He skilfully makes it look easy, cloaking his well-meaning character's inner turmoil.

No blood is spilled during Sobler's verbal slugfest, directed with an invisible hand by Chris Sigurdson, and Winnipeggers will leave entertained and not too bruised by the smackdown their town endures. Sobler's first full-length play proves a keeper, successfully creating real people out of her odd couple with enough substance to cast long shadows alongside the jokes.

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca