By Kathleen Kirby
It may not be seemly to find comedy at a funeral, but that’s exactly the case in the Flint Community Players version of Dearly Departed which opened Thursday at Bower Theatre. Quips and quarrels abound in this script by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones as a Southern family deals with the death of the Turpin family patriarch.
Possibly talked to death, Bud Turpin keels over at the breakfast table and falls smack into the bosom of his wife, Raynelle (Patty Bracey). This occurrence sets a whole litany of relationship issues in play as the family attempts to do right by Raynelle and themselves as well.
First notified, Raynelle’s sister Marguerite (Karen Craner) sends out a clarion call to her slovenly son Royce (Michael Poehner) with orders to drive her to her sister’s house immediately. Indeed the car ride with these two is a hoot!
Meanwhile the good Reverend Hooker (Rick Blom) confers with the widow and her chip-munching daughter, Delightful (Holly Hiltz) to come up with a nice eulogy for this heathen husband of hers. He is distressed to hear the best description Raynelle can give about her late spouse is “mean and surly”, a phrase she will want engraved on Bud’s headstone as well.
Eldest son Ray-Bud (Victor Galea) gathers the family to plan the services. Clearly the most successful offspring in this quirky group, Ray-Bud is held in check well by his wife Lucille (Katherine Roda). Between bouts over infidelity between his brother Junior (Carl Mizell) and wife Suzanne (Katie McArthur), Aunt Marguerite’s preaching and Royce’s hysterically crass corndog munching, the funeral plans are set.
Of course nothing goes well as the funeral home air conditioning malfunctions, the reverend has gastrointestinal problems, and Ray-Bud vows revenge against the funeral director. Seems he placed ballet shoes on Bud’s feet in the casket.
One thing we wished there’d been more of was the radio choir which only appeared once and was truly clever comedy. Another subtly comic bit concerned the hilarious interaction between oldsters Veda (Sarah Andresen) and Norval (Douglas Bloodgood).
With a whole slew of locations necessary for this show, director Steven J. Mokofsky has elected to set the stage sparingly and rely on lighting to focus attention. There are backdrops, but they are generic. Slight changes may occur but they are not obvious except for the two scenes in a car which work well.
This is a lengthy two and a half hour performance, and we’re not sure it sustains itself well that long. The first act is cute and all the characters gather lots of chuckles. However, it gets a bit tedious by the second act as the comedy shticks begin to wear thin. The plot rambles and is more a series of comic vignettes around a central issue. If there’s a message, it may be that death can often rally the troops with sometimes quirky results.
Dearly Departed continues through March 19 at Bower Theatre. For tickets call 810-237-7333 or online www.thewhiting.com . For further information call 810-235-6963 or online www.flintcommunityplayers.com