Grave humor 

After a successful run of Death of a Salesman, the Little Theatre of Savannah turns to lighter fare -- the comedy Dearly Departed.

It is a very funny comedy about a dysfunctional but loveable Southern family,” says Eileen Janson, spokeswoman for the Little Theatre. “In the opening moments, the patriarch of the family passes away. The whole play is about the family coming together, with various children and their spouses, all squabbling as they gather to plan the funeral.”

The cast is a mix of familiar and new faces. “All our shows have open auditions. We always like it when new people audition,” Janson says.

As the play begins, Bud Turpin dies in the opening scene, causing chaos among his survivors. As family members gather around, “Daddy Bud,” as they called him, is revealed as a difficult man through the eyes of his widow, Raynelle.

Raynelle, who is played by Mickey Dodge, has her hands full with the rest of the family. Her oldest son, Ray-Bud, who is played by Thomas Mokwa, worries that the funeral director is going to overcharge him because of an incident that happened when both were in grade school.

Her other son, Junior, played by Brandon Lee, has a nagging wife and three children who are “demon possessed.” Junior is a philanderer who has gone broke in a parking lot-cleaning business.

Raynelle’s daughter, Delightful, who is played by Adrienne Fraser, is a teenager who does nothing but eat.

Then there is Aunt Marguerite, played by Gail Davis, who is holier-than-thou. On the morning Daddy Bud dies, Marguerite has promised to come over and spend the day reading scripture to him so he can “get right with the Lord.”

Others in the cast include Kelly Nelson as Lucille, Patrick Saxon as Royce, Jamie Busbin as Suzanne, Samantha Dukes as Nadine, and Ed Davis in four different roles as Bud, Clyde, the Rev. Hooker and Norval.

If the plot and characters seem familiar, you may have seen the film Kingdom Come, an African-American version of Dearly Departed, that starred Whoopi Goldberg and L.L. Cool J.

However, in the original stage version, the Turpins are -- well, rednecks who live in an unspecified area of the Bible Belt. As they gather for the funeral, they bring all their hangovers, money problems and arguments about an appropriate gravestone for Daddy Bud with them.

“This is shaping up to be a pretty funny show,” Janson says. “We try to do a season that is diverse. We try to do a variety of serious, classic, contemporary plays and try to touch different genres of theater.”

Dearly Departed is directed by Bob R. Patterson, who most recently directed the Little Theatre production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

“Dearly Departed
is one of the funniest scripts I’ve read in a while,” Patterson says. “Needless to say, everyone in the family has their own problems. The characters are people anyone can recognize as someone in their own family. Everyone has some relatives like the people in this show.”

Little Theatre board members schedule the upcoming season in June, and are gearing up to start choosing productions for next season. “This is the fourth show in our season,” says Janson. “We have one more this year, our big summer musical, Into the Woods.”

That production will be presented Aug, 4, 5, 6 and 7 at Armstrong Atlantic State University. Auditions, which are open to everyone, will be June 6 and 7 at 6 p.m. at the JEA.

In the meantime, there’’s Dearly Departed. “If the audience finds this play half as funny as we’re finding it in rehearsals, we’ve got it made,” Patterson says. “This is very much an ensemble comedy, and the cast is a delight.”

Even though he had just directed Joseph, Patterson decided to also direct Dearly Departed because he liked the script so much.

“This is basically a comedy about death, sex, food and family,” he says. “It’s just sheer, silly entertainment. The audience is just going to be able to sit back and laugh themselves silly.”

Dearly Departed will be presented May 29, 30, 31, June 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and June 5 at 3 p.m. at the Jewish Educational Alliance Auditorium, 5111 Abercorn St. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. For reservations or information, call 355-8111, Ext. 225 or 429-2637 or 220-1255.


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Linda Sickler

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Connect Today 10.23.2016

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