“A Nice Family Gathering” wasn’t exactly Nino Casisi’s first choice as a director this season at City Theatre of Independence.

“A Nice Family Gathering” wasn’t exactly Nino Casisi’s first choice as a director this season at City Theatre of Independence.

Originally, Casisi had wanted to direct the 32nd season’s opener, “The Foreigner.” But then, Nancy Eppert, whom Casisi had directed in City Theatre’s 2007 production of “Funny Money,” told him he had to read the script for “A Nice Family Gathering.”

“When I read it, I just fell in love with it,” says Casisi, whose acting experience with City Theatre dates back to 1990 when, incidentally, he made his City Theatre debut in “The Foreigner.”

“It’s close to my own life – the family situation is the same. ... When I read it, it was astounding, how close my family is to this show. I was like, ‘There is no other person who could direct this, I think, who has this much connection with the script.’”

Phil Olson’s acclaimed comedy “A Nice Family Gathering” opens to the public Friday night as the closing production in City Theatre’s 32nd season. Set on Thanksgiving in Minnesota, the Lundeen family is grieving its first major holiday without Dad (the elder Carl Lundeen, portrayed by Kurt Moegle), about 10 months after he died unexpectedly and at a relatively young age.

However, the younger Carl Lundeen (portrayed by Jim Fisher – he’s not a “junior,” though) is haunted by Dad’s ghost when Dad returns to tell his wife (portrayed by Eppert) of 35 years – through his son – that he loves her, something the husband never said while he was still living.

Ten years ago, Casisi’s own mother and father died within five days of each other – his mother, of congestive heart failure and diabetes, while his father died “of, we believe, a broken heart,” Casisi says.

“It’s one of those stories that brought back so many memories of my own childhood,” he says. “Every character at least goes through one or two things that my own family went through. Like the fighting between the boys – me and my brother fought like cats and dogs.”

As for the man who comes back from the dead, Moegle’s own father died in 1998, and Moegle had the opportunity to tell him how he felt about him before his death.

“He was a funny guy, and he always enjoyed a good laugh,” Moegle says, “and he did cherish his time with his family. But, a lot of things went unspoken. What I take away from this is, show your appreciation and love for those who are close to you while you’re all here.

“I’ve known people who, unfortunately, haven’t done that. It’s a very sad situation. You’re only here for a certain period of time, so make sure you enjoy it and share it and make sure you tell those around you how you feel. None of us is going to be around forever.”

Casisi agrees – “A Nice Family Gathering” is about the opportunity we all wish we had, but don’t really get or even want until it’s too late.

“It’s got a lot of comedy, but it’s got that piece of the puzzle that, I think, is just going to make you cry,” he says. “It’s always important to say that you love your family. I got that chance, but just with my mom, not with my dad. ... It’s very heartfelt to be able to say you love someone and mean it. But, it’s really heart-wrenching when you can’t.”