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“Dearly Departed” to open Thursday night

Published 3:39pm Sunday, September 15, 2013

You know that favorite old classic movie you never tire of watching again and again? The one where you can’t wait for your favorite scene? The one where you can recite the dialogue right along with the actor, laughing all the while?
Well, Bainbridge Little Theatre’s production of “Dearly Departed” is one of those comedy plays you want to see again, and again.
The original BLT production of this play was entered by a local cast in a state competition in 1996 and won first place. It is also the play that has appeared on the local theatre stage several times, yet audiences never seem to tire of it. It is just as fresh and funny each time you see it. The last time it was on the Troupe Street stage was in 2008 and was dedicated to the memory of the late Margaret Maynard who played the original Aunt Marquerite.
Although the cast may change a bit from production to production, the plot is still about the Turpin family, a disfunctional Southern Baptist backwoods bunch who try to put their personal problems aside and prepare for their father’s funeral. It exposes the audience to a series of crazy family members and neighbors whose problems result in comedic mayham.
This year’s production is being directed by Pamela Barnes, who also returns to the role of Suzanne, the suspicious wife of the youngest son Junior. Barnes said she has been playing the role of Suzanne since 1996 when she won her first “Best Actess” award for that role at the Georgia Theatre Conference, the year BLT won best play and Scott Dunn was voted best supporting actor. She has also played the role in North Georgia’s OCAF theatre.
Barnes said there is an underlying message for the audience — that sometimes we find that laughter through tears can be very healing. And even in the most ridiculous, trying difficult situations we may come together as a family and a community when we need to in order to support one another.
Daddy Bud is played by Richard Whitehead, who dies in the first scene, allowing Whitehead to take on a second role as Royce, an out-of-work nephew, with no plans for the future. Dad Bud’s widow, Raynelle is played by Martha Mobley, who tries to keep the family together with sound mind and advice. Ray-Bud, the elder son, (Thad Nifong) is a recovering alcoholic who can’t quite leave the bottle alone, and is worried he’ll have to pay the funeral expenses. Junior, the younger son is played by Mike Inlow. He is the long suffering husband of Suzanne, who distrusts him since she learned he had an affair. The couple also is unhappy to be broke due to a bad business deal Junior made.
Ray-Bud’s wife, Lucille, is played by Tonya Reynolds. She is disappointed at her inability to carry a baby to term and tries to mother everyone else.
Marie Stapleton plays Marguerite, Bud’s sister, who is an overcontrolling mother and overwhelming about sharing her religion. Then, there is Delightful, Bud and Raynelle’s daughter who has been very pampered all her life and who eats constantly.
Art Hart takes on the role of Rev. Hooker and also plays Norval, an aging man kept alive by oxygen and medication and the everlasting care of his wife Veda (Misty Brown), a friend of the family, who doesn’t let anyone forget the sacrifices she makes.
Another friend of the family is Nadine, who seems to be perpetually pregnant, has many children, and names them all after actors. She is played by Marjorie Mayfield. Another BLT veteran actor, Amy Wells, assumes the role of Merline, a neighbor.
Joe Livingston is Clyde, Ray-Bud’s boss, and Hildy Conder is Juanita, a cousin by marriage, who is very wealthy and proper, and tries to put things on a higher ground.
Misty Brown, Kathy Sarrette and Nyles Odom form the Joy of Life Singers.
The play was written in 1991 by David Bottrell and Jesse Jones, two Kentucky born actors, who have continued to have successful careers on stage and television, while this play has been widely performed around the country.
Barnes said she wanted to direct this show because through the years people continually ask that the play be produced again. “As one of the beloved shows that we have performed, I felt this would be a wonderful way to open the 40th season.” She considers it a gift to have so many of the original cast members (Mobley, Nifong, Inlow and herself). There are also BLT veterans who have played different roles, such as Whitehead, Reynolds and Livingston. “I am happy to have a couple of fantastic newcomers as well in the persons of Art Hart and Marie Stapleton,” she adds.
Indeed, what better way to celebrate the 40th season of the Bainbridge Little Theatre than by attending a production of “Dearly Departed.” It opens Thursday, Sept. 19 and continues Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m., concluding with a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee on the 22nd.
For ticket information or reservations, contact bainbridgelittletheatre@gmail.com or call 246-8345 Mon. through Fri. from 1 to 6 p.m.

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