Canada’s master playwright applies his trademark black humour and incredibly crisp dialogue to the family and multiculturalism. We the Family follows the ripple effects within two culturally and racially divergent families when their children wed.
We the Family ’s list of characters reads like an ethnic joke, which, indeed, it is, at least in part: the son of the main characters, David and Lizzie Kaplan, a Jewish–Irish Catholic mixed marriage, marries the daughter of Jenny Lee, a Chinese Canadian widow. There’s also a Russian mistress, a Palestinian lover, and a glamorous, possibly fraudulent Italian psychologist, while offstage Pakistani terrorists kidnap the also-offstage honeymooning couple, then sell them to Sicilian gangsters who sell them to Russian gangsters, one of whom turns out to be the father of the Russian mistress (another family).
By the end of the play, Walker has deconstructed the dysfunctional Kaplan and Lee families and family love as well. Through the play’s pervading treachery, with family members and lovers betraying each other in horrifying ways, he satirizes the hypocrisy of expounding family values while behaving in viciously selfish and self-centred ways. These hyphenated Canadians certainly aren’t “nice,” and no amount of “sweet-and-sour matzah balls” (which the Kaplan matriarch serves at the multicultural wedding reception) can hide the nasty taste.