When Bud Turpin’s wife wants to engrave the epitaph “Mean and Surly” on her gravestone, viewers know for sure they are involved in a classic farce, which has landed on community theater stages since the 1990s. Director Paul McKinney draws heavily on the magnified emotion and visual humor of David Bottrel and Jessie Jones ‘“Dearly Departed” to elicit an almost constant laugh from audiences during Oswego Players’ first post-quarantine production. .
In a series of 17 interwoven vignettes played out from the moment the Patriarch of the Turpin family falls dead over breakfast to his disturbing funeral, the audience meets his dysfunctional family: his long-suffering wife Raynelle, played by the troupe president Tammy Thompson and her son, alcoholic Ray-Bud, Eric Cronk, and failed Junior entrepreneur, Joshua DeLorenzo.
Their much younger goth sister, Delightful, played by Alex Taylor, turns out to be a stage thief despite her minimal dialogue. Her recklessness, angst, and disdain burn through her downcast eyes as she compulsively gobbles up crisps and popcorn in a dollar bag she carries around, even disrupting her father’s wake with the click of cellophane and the crunch of food, including pieces it picks up. from the ground where it dispersed.
The aggressively Christian sister of the late Marguerite, Beverly Murtha, fills the house with her suppressed anger, delivering every line and verse of scripture with clenched teeth and a burning fire. His son Royce, Matthew Fleming, is the stereotypical lazy boy who will never grow up with a good heart. Among the cast of 14 comedians, each of whom is an exaggerated caricature of a resident of the Biblical Belt, the wives of Junior and Ray-Bud play a central role.
Jennifer Waugh, as Lucille, exerts a stabilizing influence as she takes responsibility for the arrangements after her stepfather’s death. Her life is tempered by an underlying sadness for a long series of miscarriages and, in a particularly poignant line, she tells Ray-Bud that her father had been kind to her. “He always said, ‘Better luck next time,’ she said. Lucille survives her losses by clinging to hope and swallowing “nerve pills,” which she readily shares with her sister-in-law Suzanne, Gina Wentworth.
Wentworth must dig deep to find benevolence in her character, who is initially seen as a rabid mother driving home with her unfaithful husband and misbehaving children. Suzanne’s threats to abandon the children by the side of the road do not leave much room for sympathy. But, Wentworth – who holds nothing back and willingly puts on an odd show of herself as she inhabits the role – rises above Suzanne’s deficits. Her moment of redemption comes at Bud’s funeral, when she stands at her casket to sing, in a clear a capella soprano, “In the sweet by then we will meet on this beautiful shore.”
The funeral resolves most of Turpin’s conflicts, but the public is confident that this eccentric family’s feuds won’t be buried with Bud. Their landlines will buzz with gossip and they will complain about the high price of Kentucky fried chicken and corn dogs until, one by one, each of them comes to eternal rest.
The comedy in this show stems from the embellished stereotypes of the writers’ hinterland; laughter comes at the expense of human vulnerabilities – an aging former beauty queen who cannot give up her only claim to fame, a woman who measures her worth in the care she lavishes on her multi-afflicted husband, or a pastor who resent with all his heart the time he must devote to his flock.
Some of the humor seems artificial, but on the night of the premiere, the tears of many viewers and cast members were genuine. They arose out of the empathy for the parents of Patrick Carman, a beloved artist from central New York to whose memory the production is dedicated.
McKinney told the audience that Carman was cast for the role of Rev. Hooker, but he was never able to play it because two weeks before opening night, Covid-19 forced all theaters to go down. Carman died aged 26 before rehearsal resumed.
“Last July we lost our friend Patrick Carman, a true angel on earth,” McKinney said. “This child breathed joy. He loved the theater and he loved everyone he met.
McKinney explained that the troupe created the Patrick Carman Joyful Heart Theater Scholarship to perpetuate his memory, and the cast presented his mother, Colleen, with a bunch of red roses at the Last Curtain. She got to play a surprise cameo towards the end of the show, and even her husband, Kevin, looked astonished.
A variety of gifts and grants to the company, founded in the 1930s, have been used to increase safety and comfort – including new seating – in the Fort Ontario building that houses the players and the Oswego Art Guild. Limited seating and pandemic health protocols are in place.
What: Oswego players present “Dearly Departed”
When: Examined in preview on August 4th. Continues August 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and August 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Or: Frances Marion Brown Theater at the Oswego Arts Center in Fort Ontario
Tickets: Book by phone at 315-343-5138
Cost: Adults $ 20; seniors and students $ 15
Car park: Free in adjacent lots
Relevance: High school and up – mature comedy and brief appearance of a gun.
CNY Theater Guide 2021/2022