By CHUCK GRAHAM
Everyone at Live Theatre Workshop agrees “Dearly Departed” by Kentucky playwrights David Bottrel and Jessie Jones is the most popular play the East Side company ever produced. So LTW is doing it again, firing up this comedy tale of beleaguered Baptists in the backwoods of the Bible Belt.
Jeremy Thompson is directing a cast of 10 eccentric characters detailing the misadventures of the Turpin family coming together for the funeral of patriarch Bud Turpin. He’s a man of whom his wife Raynelle would only say, “He was mean and surly.” In fact, she wants “mean and surly” engraved on Bud’s tombstone.
Bud and Raynelle’s eldest son Ray-Bud would prefer a shorter phrase. Anything with fewer letters, because it would be cheaper. In this whole clan of less-than-industrious, but sometimes quite religious, relatives, Ray-Bud is the only one with a job. So he’s afraid of getting stuck for the cost of the entire funeral.
Cliff Madison plays the responsible Ray-Bud; Joan Van Dyke, the bitter widow.
Sometimes described as a play about “family, faith and fooling around in the Deep South,” political incorrectness is sure to be involved. So is redneck humor, yet there is also a good bit of humanity mixed in with the references to macaroni salad and Ham Loaf Surprise.
Marguerite (Kristi Loera) is the spiritual leader, sanctimonious and full of fire and brimstone. She’s also sergeant at arms for a missionary group dedicated to its campaign of getting African bush women to wear brassieres.
In contrast is Ray-Bud’s wife, Lucille (Holli Henderson), sweet as saccharin but desperately longing to have some children in her life.
Ray-Bud’s younger brother, Junior (Stephen Frankenfield), has ambition but it keeps getting misdirected. He just lost his shirt (so to speak) buying all the industrial equipment to run a parking lot cleaning service. He’s surprised there aren’t more people who want their parking lots kept squeaky clean.
Junior also finds it a challenge to stay faithful to his wife, Suzanne (Jodi Rankin), who doesn’t make it any easier by constantly reminding him of his business failures.
Thompson also steps in as Royce, the woeful son of high-powered Marguerite. Royce shows up at the funeral having recently lost his job at the sewer plant.
Conducting Bud’s ill-fated funeral ceremony is the Rev. Hooker (Larry Fuller), a man of the cloth who ought to know better.
Completing the cast are Dyan Roosma as Juanita and Megan Patno as Delightful.
if you go
What: Live Theatre Workshop presents “Dearly Departed” by David Bottrel and Jessie Jones
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays to Feb. 5
Where: LTW, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.
How much: $14-$16
Details: For reservations, call 327-4242