DEARLY BELOVED

by Dick Kerekes
Theatre Jacksonville opened its first play of 2010 in its 90th season, with the comedy, Dearly Beloved. It will be on the stage at the Harold K. Smith Playhouse, 2032 San Marco Blvd., until January 30th. The repertory committee that chooses Theate Jacksonville’s shows, obviously is psychic and knew we would need a few laughs in 2010, and comedy is king in this show and the remainder of the 2009-2010 season.
If you are familiar with the term red neck then you are rip roaring ready to see Dearly Beloved. This show is about a really red neck Texas family and the occasion of a very unusual wedding.
Playwrights Jessie Jones, Nocholas Hope and Jamie Wooden, have written a trilogy of plays about the Futrelle family of Fayro, Texas. The first was Christmas Belles which was a big hit 2 years ago at Players by the Sea. If you liked that one, then don’t miss Dearly Beloved, which is just as funny and as much fun.
The play revolves around the three wacky and wonderful Futrelle Sisters, who earned family fame years ago as a gospel singing group, “The Sermonettes”. The group broke up when Honey Rae ( played by St. Augustine’s Beth Lambert), married a ventriloquist evangelist, her 4th of 5 or 6 husbands (I lost count). Lambert’s Honey Rae has some of the best lines, and she knows how to deliver them. Example; “I should have known I was in trouble with my last husband when he asked me to marry him with out moving his lips!”
Theresa Arnold-Simmons is Twink (the Sermonette with the best voice), who has been trying to drag her medicated (or drunk?) boy friend to the altar for 15 years. Tom Trauger is hilarious as the boy friend and in two other cameo roles.
Toni D’Amico is the 3rd sister, Frankie Futrelle Dubberly, and is the center of attention, since it is her daughter, Tina Jo, who is getting married. Ms. D’Amico’s talks with her dead mother, Mamma Eula, are one of the side splitting highlights of the show.
Sommer Farhat is funny as Tina Jo, but is even more hilarious as her twin sister Gina Jo, and does a really terrific job as chief cow inseminator.
The show opens on the wedding day by the motor-mouthed, busy body, Geneva Musgrave, the local florist/wedding organizor/Greyhound bus agent played by Gayle Featheringill, who did the same role in Christmas Belles and is even funnier this time around.
Steve Philips is Frankie’s good old boy husband, who puts up with an eccentric wife by going hunting and fishing. He delivers some really great one-line jokes.
Jan Williams makes her theatre debut as Patsy Price, snooty society mother of the never seen groom. Ms. Williams took her first acting class less than six months ago, and did quite well, although she needs to increase her volume a bit, but that will come with a couple more performances. Joshua Taylor makes his Theatre Jax debut as Justin the Fed Ex Deliveryman who winds up performing the wedding ceremony in place of the pastor who is in an alcohol rehab center. Justin has secretly fallen in love with Gina Jo as he made deliveries of bull semen to the cattle ranch.
Jack Bisson is also making his TJ and theatre debut, as John Curtis, the somewhat dimwitted, gun twirling deputy. He has been a member of a comedy improv group for two years, and appeared to be very comfortable in this role. No small Southern town would be complete without a resident psychic, and Fayro has Nelda, played by yet another new talent , T. Monique Patterson.
Well here I am this far into this review and I have not really given you the plot. What plot? Well, there is the suspense of whether the groom will show up? Why has the bride-to-be disappeared? Will someone die of food poisoning from the pot luck summer wedding reception featuring government community cheese and other weird goodies?
Kelly Wagoner (Set Designer) and Jeff Wagoner (Technical Director), have created a colorful small town setting dominated by the Tabernacle of the Lamb Church (front & back). Pay close attention and you will see how costume designer Sally Pettegrew’s costumes fit the personality of the person wearing it. This is Jason Collins directing debut at Theatre Jacksonville, and he has done a wonderful job of casting. His direction uses every opportunity to bring out the many humorous moments in this comedy, and he has kept it a fast paced show. Act I was one hour long but it just zipped by.
I don’t know what the third installment of this trilogy is about, but you can bet some group will do it. Red neck humor goes over big in this town. I guarantee you will laugh, probably not at everything, but you get a lot of choices. You might even relate to some of the home spun philosophy, like “A woman is like a tea bag, you don’t know how strong she is until you stick her in hot water.”
Call 396-4425 for reservations.

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