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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Green Bay Community Theater’s ‘Dearly Beloved’ frisky

The comedy with drama revolves around a disastrous wedding.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – “Dearly Beloved” has the feel of a sitcom that gets resolved, not over years of running on TV but in the 2½ hours of its running time. The play has defined characters, punchy lines and a comical/quirky situation at its story core. The play is mostly a comedy, but drama flows through as the three central sisters pick old wounds and eventually come to peace. “Dearly Beloved” has plenty to work with, and Green Bay Community Theater responds with a spunky production (4½ stars out of 5). Performances continue through April 13. Info: www.gbcommunitytheater.com.

The backdrop of the play returns Green Bay Community Theater’s playhouse to its original function, a church (though the setting is quite a bit farther south, in Texas). It’s a wedding day, and complications abound:

- The preacher has gone on a bender, and his substitute is a seminarian who is paying his way through as a UPS deliveryman. He shows up in his brown uniform.

- The sister in charge of the food for the reception has taken it upon herself to do things up on the cheap, so the wishes of the bride’s mother for something elegant turn out to be potluck.

- The family of the groom thinks he is marrying into folks who recently learned how to stand up and walk.

- The bride and groom are no where to be found, and the wedding coordinator stalls for time to hold the congregation with such entertainments as a demonstration on the appropriate way to fold the flag.

Action clicks along on the strength of the expertise of the playwriting trio of Jones Hope Wooten (their last names) and the able cast directed by Curt Christnot.

Making the sisters interesting are Renee De Lain as Frankie, the mother of the bride who seeks guidance when she speaks to her deceased mother; Pam Obey as Twink, who aches to marry her boyfriend of 15½ years; and Nannette Macy as Honey Raye, whose wandering path through five husbands has led her back home, where her mere existence irritates her sisters.

The sisters are surrounded by colorful characters played by Azure Hall (twin sister of the bride), Michael Pickett (father of the bride), Chris Weis (substitute pastor), Rob Czypinski (gonzo local cop), Monette Bebow-Reinhard (aloof mother of the groom), Marla Van Lanen (a psychic), Sarah Yach (wedding coordinator) and Chase Elsbecker (the overmedicated boyfriend of Twink).

The actresses playing the sisters display a lot of pluses in the sisterly give and take. This production also has two right-on performances that make going to community theater fun – the steady-as-she-goes father of the bride of Michael Picket and the gee-why-am-I-in-this-mess? stand-in pastor of Chris Weis.

The set, including faux stained-glass windows, looks good.

The play has an emphasis on food, but no food is physically present. The characters eat make-believe food, and in one case aggressively carve an invisible turkey. An invisible glass cup also breaks. Those scenes made me stop to think, “Oh, that’s what’s happening.”

 

***

Creative: Written by Jones Hope Wooten (Jessie Jones, Nicolas Hope and Jamie Wooten). Director – Curt Christnot, production coordinator – Jennifer Wodushek, assistant to director – Bonnie Goggins, visual/scenic designer – Steve Riner, costume coordinator – Sarah Yach, make-up/hair/wig designer – Jackie Ploor, scenic painter – Charlie Fries.

Cast: Renee DeLain, Frankie; Azure Hall, Tina Jo and Gina Jo; Nanette Macy, Honey Raye; Pamela Obey, Twink; Michael Picket, Dub; Sara Yach, Geneva; Marla Van Lanen, Nelda; Chris Weis, Justin; Rob Czypinski, John Curtis; Monette Bebow-Reinhard, Patsy; and Chase Elsbecker, Wiley.

***

 

THE VENUE: The 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, most obvious in its peaked windows that once may have held stained-glass windows. The auditorium includes a 30 by 24-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The troupe owns the building. The Green Room serves as a rehearsal/staging area and, on performance days, the audience gathering area. In keeping with the troupe’s catchphrase, “Where the Arts Engage,” photographs by Michael Saduske are on display in the Green Room during this run.

THE PERSON: Robert Lee Brault was a longtime Green Bay Community Theater actor, director and managing director. He and his wife, Rita Brault, were mainstays from the time the troupe performed at various locations through the purchase of the present playhouse.

A PASSING: In program notes, troupe president Sylvia Pratt gives a tip of the hat to Herb Williams, a major figure in theater in the region who died March 19. For Green Bay Community, Herb Williams directed “The Rose Tattoo,” “Dark at the Top of the Stairs” and “Equus” and acted in the leading role of “Almighty Bob.” My remembrance of him is at http://www.wearegreenbay.com/story/d/story/critic-at-large/22858/6wx5KEaLR0KUWytX6Woeog.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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