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Monday, 05 November 2012 22:41

Those funny Southerners

Written by Bob Wilcox
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Those funny Southerners
ktg-onstage.org

Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten have made careers – one could say an industry – out of writing comedies about an ethnic group that it is safe to laugh at, Southern whites, usually Texans.

They've churned out a dozen of these. I believe none of them has ever gotten anywhere near Broadway, but community theatres love them. They usually have several roles for women of a certain age. Community theatres usually have many women of a certain age looking for roles. And community theatre audiences love to laugh. These plays make TV sitcoms – and the playwrights have all three worked in TV – look like classics of dramatic comedy by comparison. But audiences laugh.

They laughed at the performance of The Red Velvet Cake War by Jones, Hope, and Wooten that I attended at the Kirkwood Theatre Guild. They laughed a lot. I assume they had all been careful to suspend all disbelief upon entering the theatre, as well as all expectations of credibility and logic in what they were seeing.

I'm speaking of the script. The cast at Kirkwood, under Dani Mann's direction, play with total conviction. They unearth every joke, however painful, point it precisely, and play it with fine comic timing. Rarely have I seen such a mismatch – such excellent work rescuing such weak material.

The play concerns the three Verdeen sisters, each in the throes of marital distress or lack of same. Elizabeth Gasoske plays the one whose sanity is being examined by a psychologist – don't ask. Rebeca Davidson plays the psychologist. Julie Healey as Verdeen sister Jimmy Wyvette contests a neighbor played by Amanda Vick for a particular man. Cynthia Huesman, with a fine comic range, wants any man. Suzanne Greenwald is the women's disapproving aunt, and it's a treat to see her bantering with Tom Yager as yet another Verdeen. Judy Lewis is Yager's character's bow-decorated beaux. Ray Shea shamelessly gets laughs from a glass eye. Paul Ruppel plays the local sheriff – again, don't ask. It's always good to see Jim Kistner in a show, though I'm not quite sure why his character is there. Maureen Riordan-Smith's character, a cable access show hostess, is there to fill some gaps, and I'm glad she is.

Merrick Mohler has designed a handsome set for The Red Velvet Cake War, with lights by Gary Sibbitts, sound by Lee Meyer, and costumes perfectly in the spirit of the occasion by Michelle Beczkala and Cherol Thibaut.

Like events in the script, The Red Velvet Cake War continues for no good reason -- except the performances – at the Kirkwood Theatre Guild.

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