By Lynne Welder
If you go …
When: 8 p.m. May 4 and 5; 2 p.m. May 6; 8 p.m. May 11 and 12
Where: Greenville Area Community Center
Tickets: $12 for adults or $10 for seniors and students
Information: Call (616) 745-8207
Cast: Hilda Sorvari, Geneva; Amanda Horner, TJ/GJ; Becky Tower, Honey Raye; Christine Kubec, Frankie; Ryan Garlick, Dub; Karen Hafey, Twink; Carol Pettengill, Nelda; JJ Souza, Justin; Ric Devon Davenport, John; Kurt Schuster, Wiley; Victoria Knapp, Patsy; directed by Larry Moss with Lindsay Tallian; produced by Hilda Sorvari.
When you walk into the Greenville Area Community Center Theater for Flat River Community Players’ latest play, be prepared to have fun.
The stage is set with bright streamers flowing down from two white paper wedding bells and tables full of food and flowers. The play’s title, “Dearly Beloved,” tells you there is a wedding going on. Maybe and maybe not.
The comedy is set in mythical Fayro, Texas. It’s the kind of town where, as Twink Futrelle, one of the three sisters the play revolves around says, “If you put a five instead of a 10 in the collection plate, half the town will know before the sermon is over.” Most of the town gossip comes from talk at the Dollar General.
Director Larry Moss describes the play as a “character comedy.” In a number of short, fast-moving vignettes, the story of this slightly off-kilter, dysfunctional family and their friends unfolds. Character is the word that captures the varied and talented cast. The laugh lines catch you unexpectedly and carry through till the last scene.
Moss says that he was laughing out loud as he began to read the script and by the bottom of the second page, he knew they had to do the play.
As wedding planner/florist/Greyhound bus franchise owner, Geneva Musgrave is played by Flat River Player veteran Hilda Sovari. Geneva is a bossy, strong woman who pulls the story line together for the audience. Standing behind her flower-arranging table, she grabs the phone to keep up on the latest gossip and then fishes the Greyhound microphone out of a vase to announce an incoming bus. Waving a rose in her hand, she tells us she is a hopeless romantic. Her strong no-nonsense personality is the perfect foil to the sugary sweetness of the other Southern women. Later in the play, she warns the sheriff, “I too am packin’ heat.”
The future bride’s Aunt Honey Raye, played by Becky Tower, returns to Fayro for the wedding. Married five times and looking for number six, Honey Raye, in her too tight, too short and way too low-cut dress passes on advice to her niece who doesn’t want the fancy wedding her mother is planning. “It’s your rodeo, you know.”
Honey Raye has a little problem with hot flashes. I never thought they were very funny until seeing her grab anything is sight to fan herself and cool off.
What makes this play is that the humor comes at you quickly, just when you think you know what will happen. For instance, Frankie, mother of the bride played by Christine Kubec, sits at her dressing table in her silky robe with mud and cream covering her face. She has been spending a lot of time lately talking to her departed mother about her problems. Then her husband Dub comes in for a kiss and ends up with cream all over his beard. Dub is played by Ryan Garlich. Even with his tux, he wears an old camouflage hunting cap. He has something going on behind Frankie’s back, but again, just when you think you know, you may not.
Kubec pours a huge amount of energy into her tortured character. Nothing goes like she has planned. She walks into the church fellowship hall and takes one look at the table of food for the wedding guests. There is Uzella Smoot’s bean pot, government surplus cheese left over from the food pantry and her sister Twink’s “famous” tuna bake.
“If momma Eula was alive,” Frankie cries, “she’d die!”
Frankie has a short soliloquy halfway through the play that is really beautiful. Amid all the light-hearted comedy, these few lines are extremely touching.
Just to keep from having too much fired-up estrogen around, Sheriff John Curtis (Ric Devon Davenport) joins the fun. He is fully dressed in a uniform any 10-year old boy would die for. Like a little boy on a sugar high, John Curtis loves his gun and never stays still as he pretends to capture the bad guys while having guy talk with Dub. It will be his job to apprehend the bride and groom who have gone missing. He gets so excited as he heads to his squad car. “I’m fixin’ to bag my first Beamer!”
The bride, Frankie’s daughter Tina Jo and her twin sister, Gina Jo, are played by Amanda Horner. Gina Jo (GL) is extremely shy and has the unique job as a cow inseminator. She has her eyes on the UPS driver who brings semen to the vet, but she’s afraid to talk to him. Then in Honey Raye’s lusty way, GL’s aunt says, “Just take the bull by the horns.”
GL isn’t used to that end of the animal.
Jeremiah Souza plays the UPS driver/stand-in preacher. My favorite scene with him comes when stands alone talking to God. Again, the humor comes unexpectedly.
A new face among the FRCP actors, Kurt Schuster plays Wiley Hicks. Frankie’s sister Twink has had her eyes on him for 15 years and is determined to get him to the altar.
Wiley’s role is very funny and physical. After being drugged with aspirin, Nyquil, and several other medicines Twink found, he stumbles into the fellowship hall. At one point he holds up his clip-on tie thinking it is an animal tail he just shot. He never quite wakes up.
Despite one disaster after another and with help from the whole community of Fayro, the wedding comes together to in a completely unexpected way. Suffice it to say that Frankie won’t be talking nearly so much to Mamma Eula now.
“Dearly Beloved” lasts about two hours with a short intermission. The fast-moving comedy is plenty of fun for all ages.
Flat River Community Players reviewer Lynne Welder is Sheridan area resident.