Friday, March 6, 2015

DEARLY BELOVED – What’s Not To Love?

Sarah Ominski, Jani VanPelt, and Diana LoVerso Photo by Al Stewart Photography, Tualatin

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

Theater serves a lot of purposes – it can move you, inspire you, scare you, make you think – but some shows are just good clean fun. Mask & Mirror’s current offering lands squarely in the latter camp, and the opening night audience responded by having an exceptionally good time. Dearly Beloved comes from the prolific pens of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, a writing team that specializes in “Southern Comedy.” Mask & Mirror produces at least one show a year from this general literary pool, so director Gary Romans and many of his regular actors are particularly comfortable with the deft touch needed to deliver the material.

Tyler Beadle, Aurea Taylor Photo by Al Stewart Photography, Tualatin
The show’s premise is somewhat convoluted, and revolves around the complicated relationship of the three slightly tacky Futrelle sisters, Honey Raye (Sarah Ominski), Twink (Diana LoVerso), and Frankie (Jani VanPelt). Frankie is planning an over-the-top “Gone With The Wind” themed wedding for Tina Jo, the older of her twin daughters.  As one might expect in a Southern Comedy, the hominy jest don’t always stick to the grits.

Ominski is an utterly fearless actress who pounces on her entire role with the same fervor that she brings to shucking down (part way) and leaping on the buffet table to attack the turkey.  VanPelt effectively portrays a woman who is the polar opposite – trying (in vain) to fit in with the local gentry, and eager to marry her daughter off to one of its scions. LoVerso skillfully captures the extremes of both sisters in a deceptively complex role. 

Although the show revolves around the women, some of the most fun comes from the men. Twink’s fiancé Wiley (Ted Schroeder) gets a lot of laughs as he moves from wild-eyed incoherence to near-comatose. Frankie’s husband Dub (Michael Allen) brings a likeable if lumbering charm to his role as the compliant but reluctant  father of the bride. There’s more than a little of Barney Fife in highway patrolman John Curtis Buntner (Stephen Radley) and Radley draws upon every Southern stereotype for his performance. UPS Driver/seminarian Justin Waverly (Tyler Beadle) nails the part of a befuddled blue collar ingénue coping with the women drawn like moths to the undeniable sex appeal of a man in a brown uniform.

The rest of the cast are thoroughly enjoying themselves, too – having almost as much fun as the audience.  Aurea Taylor is a fine physical comic whose shy portrayal of younger twin Gina Jo is highlighted by her awkward management of a truly hideous bridesmaid’s hoop skirt. Virginia Kincaid (as Patsy Price, the mother of the unseen groom) simply oozes snobbery.  Rounding out the cast are two more southern stereotypes, fully realized. Pat Romans is the enterprising multitasker, running the local florist shop/bus station and serving as the town’s premier wedding planner. Local psychic Nelda Lightfoot (Pamela Hough) projects just the right aura of mysterious chicanery to her malleable predictions.

The basic set (a church hall) is quickly converted into a variety of locations with portable set pieces and well-timed blackouts. Viola Pruitt’s costumes are colorful and appropriate to the characters and locale. The final (brief) concert by the Futrelle Sisters, reliving past glory as the Sermonettes touchingly brings the show full circle.

Dearly Beloved runs Saturdays and Sundays through March 22ndt at “The Stage” at Calvin Church, 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard, 97224, with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.

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