If you like a little ‘dark’ comedy surrounding death, southern stereotypes, dysfunctional families served up with plenty of irreverence, you’ll love “Dearly Departed,” now playing at Oakhurst’s Golden Chain Theatre.
The play, which takes place at the Mason-Dixon line, opens with Raynelle Turpin (Mary Helen Mierkey) reading a letter to her husband Bud at the breakfast table, when he suddenly drops to the floor ... dead as a door nail.
The remainder of the play is about the whole wacky family, some more enthusiastically than others, pulling together to plan Bud’s funeral services - often overshadowed by other family issues.
Mierkey plays the calm, deadpan, not-so-grieving widow who requests her husband’s tombstone read “Mean and Surly.”
Eldest son RayBud (George Rich), a stressed out auto mechanic, and his wife, Lucille (Mel Rich) have no choice but to be the reluctant financial backers of the funeral. Lucille is pretty steady throughout the whole situation - RayBud, who drinks a bit, is the opposite of steady, ever fretting over the mounting funeral bills.
“When I die, don’t tell nobody,” RayBud tells his wife. “Just bury me in the backyard and tell everybody I left you.”
Golden Chain’s Artistic Director Jennifer Piccolotti is great playing Bud’s overbearing, controlling devout Christian sister Marguerite. She thought they used two much rouge on her brother and two different times while viewing the body at the mortuary she said he looked like “Well Bud ... they got you painted up like a two dollar whore,” and “he looks like Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke.”
Marguerite’s defiant son Royce, who lost his job at the sewer plant, is played admirably by Jordan Michel.
Heather Sconce does a great job playing the very emotional, over-dramatic Suzann Turpin (Bud’s daughter-in-law) in her blinged-out pink rhinestone tracksuit with sparkly guns, and high heeled tennis shoes. She has to deal with her husband’s broke younger brother Junior (Mark Friesen), who she suspects of cheating on her, and her three unruly daughters.
Her scene with her husband and the three hair-pulling children in the backseat (Lindsay Martin, Kaitlyn Larmay, Cassie Longcor), while driving to the funeral, is one of many comical highlights of the show.
In the scene, she screams, “I told you kids to stop kicking the back of my seat. I know you’re hungry, you think I'm not? Well ... it would be nice to stop and get something to eat now wouldn’t it? Well, maybe we could, if your daddy hadn’t lost all of our money.”
James Mierky plays Reverend Hooker, who has his hands full trying to keep any sense of civility among all the misfits of the clan.
Oakhurst friends Kathy Swanson and Melissa Cash attended the play on Melissa’s birthday.
“Considering the circumstances, it’s light and funny,” Swanson said. “Some of the talent on the stage is pretty phenomenal. The young actors in the scene in the back seat of the car, without saying a word, are very very funny.”
Cash remembers going to the Golden Chain with her grandparent as a child before Raley’s (1980), to see “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
“We like supporting the Golden Chain and the actors are all doing a great job in this show ... it’s worth seeing,” Cash said.
The production is co-directed by Jordan Michel and Mel Rich.
Written by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, the play was first presented at the Second Stage Theater in New York in 1991.
Details: “Dearly Departed” - rated PG-13 for language and adult situations - 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays Aug. 19-20, 26-27 - 2 p.m., Sundays, Aug. 21, 28. Golden Chain Theatre, 42130 Highway 41 (just north of El Cid Mexican Restaurant) - Tickets: $8 - $15 - (559) 683-7112 (10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday), www.goldenchaintheatre.org.