Thursday, March 30, 2006

Theatrical Thurs. - I Done Peed In My Chili

As I mentioned last week, Cap'n Cluck and I got to go see the local community theater's latest production for free. The movie version of the play is currently winging its way to me courtesy of Netflix, but before I talk about the movie on Monday, I thought I'd give my thoughts on the original version of Daddy's Dyin' . . . Who's Got the Will?

Set in the West Texas town of Lowake (pronounced low-AKE-ee), the play centers around a reunion of sorts of a very dysfunctional family, gathering together to deal with their father's declining health. The players include: Lurlene the "bible-thumper," who moved away because her husband felt called to be a preacher; Orville, the loutish, dim-bulb son; Marlene, his mousey, diet-obsessed wife; Evalita, wild child and multiple divorcee; Harmony Rhodes, her hippie boyfriend; Sara Lee, the faithful daughter who stayed in Lowake when the rest of them moved off; and, last but not least, Mama Wheelis, the wisecracking mother-in-law. Taking place on the days directly proceeding and following the father's death, the play takes the characters through a minefield of long-gestating issues and buried resentments, complicated by the free spirited Evalita (who's just decided she's going to be a signer) and paranoid Orville (who's convinced that he's "done peed in [his] chili" and gotten cut from the will) becoming obsessed with finding their dad's missing will. Throw in some mental instability, some infidelity, and some smoking of the reefer, and you've got a wild and crazy time.

Or, at least, that's the intention. The end result was dependent (as plays always are) by the skill and talent of the cast. In this case (as often happens with community theater) we have a mixed bag. The cast as a whole had some difficulties utilizing their West Texas accents while still being able to project and enunciate clearly; Cluck and I were on the third row of a pretty small theater, and there were quite a few times when we couldn't make out what they were saying. The actor playing the father was the worst culprit; I'm pretty sure his dialogue was supposed to be incoherent, but not incomprehensible. And then there was the actress playing Sara Lee, supposedly the most grounded of the sibling, but played with the broadest strokes and most artificial (not to mention repetitive) blocking: walk forward three steps, shift weight to left foot, stick right hip out, bounce big 80s hair with one hand, repeat as needed, making sure to keep face in a squinty-eyed, frozen rictus of faux happiness. A tad distracting. But there were some standouts in the cast, particularly hippie Harmony, crazy Evalita, and snappy Mama Wheelis; all three of them had a good grasp of comic timing, something that was sadly lacking at times.

There were a few times during the play when Cap'n Cluck and I were the only ones laughing, which I chalk up to the fact that the family in the play were not just churched-folk, they were Southern Baptists; even though their denomination wasn't explicitly mentioned until the end of the play, there were enough Baptist-specific references (such as the WMU) that made it clear to those of us raised Baptist. My favorite part of the play was when Mama Wheelis was on the phone complaining about hippie Harmony's long hair and bare feet, exclaiming "You know what the bible has to say about that! . . . Well, it's in Corinthians . . . 1st or 2nd, I don't know!" Cluck turned to me and said it sounded like one of her relatives; I responded with the name of my own relative it reminded me of. It's always interesting to me just how much of a person's personal history and cultural background goes into the enjoyment of a show, and this one was no exception.

Overall, I enjoyed the play; yes, there were some bugs, and it definitely made me pine for the days when I had a season pass to OSU's drama department which always put on some danged fine plays, but as far as an evening of free entertainment goes, it was definitely worth the time.


Cap'n Cluck said...

I thought the name Sara Lee Turnover was genius!

Have a Cluckity Cluck Cluck Day!