DADDY'S DYIN' WHO'S GOT THE WILL?
by Del Shores
ONSTAGE in Bedford
Directed by Jonathan Wilson
Scenic Designer: Charlotte Newman
Costume Designer: Jonathan Wilson
Lighting Designer: Robert Dennard
Asst. Director/Stage Manager: Jordon Shelton
Sara Lee Turnover: Laurie McDonald
Lurlene Turnover Rodgers: LisaAnne Haram
Mama Wheelis: Dorothy Sanders
Evalita Turnover: Windy Savarese
Harmony Rhodes: Bryan Matthews
Burford Turnover: Harry Liston
Orville Turnover: Joe Savarese
Marlene Turnover: Louisa Cambridge
Reviewed Performance 1/22/2011
Reviewed by Lyle Huchton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I think it is a good practice for theater companies to include in their seasons shows that they know will bring out an audience. The tried and true crowd pleasers seem to guarantee not only a large viewing house but it also allows the theater to showcase their attributes.
Case in point is Onstage in Bedford's Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got The Will? playing now until February 6th at The Trinity Arts Theater in Bedford.
Texas Playwright Del Shores scored a hit with Daddy's Dyin when it was first produced in 1987. It played for 2 years in Los Angeles before it was was made into a movie by the same name. Although I find some of the material dated, Onstage proves that the comic writing of Shores can still hold up on its own.
The one thing that I have learned as a theater critic is to be flexible. Before I started to write for THE COLUMN, I was pretty staunch as to what type of theater I would attend. One condition was to see NOTHING with any sort of audience participation (boy has that changed!). And another was never to sit any closer to the stage than say ohhhh....the tenth row. So when the Box Office Manager asks me if the front row is ok, I cringed a little and then say, "Sure, why not." And I was so glad that I agreed.
Being that close to the action I was, first of all, able to take in all the details of Charlotte Newman's well planned set. I am from a small Texas town and this set could have been any number of homes I remember visiting while growing up. I took special joy in seeing a closet full of stuff instead of it holding the one prop that was needed for the scene. The rest of the set is also well decorated with knick-knacks and mismatched furniture to make it feel really lived in.
Director Jonathan Wilson has chose a very talented and competent cast and then added another dimension to their characters by his effective costumes.
Some of the costumes, however, were too close to the movie version of Daddy's Dyin'. But they still maintain close ties to each character. Shores' writing will trick you into believing that this play will be all marshmallow fluff with the main plot being about a family only worried about what their dying Father is leaving them in his will. But underneath this, something else is simmering. Past transgressions and old resentments start to surface. This is where this cast starts to show their true acting chops.
Everyone in this cast has their moment in the spotlight and took it with a no holds barred approach but still maintained a collective ensemble.
I took a particular notice to LisaAnne Haram as the oldest sibling, Lurlene. Usually the actress playing this part make the character over-pious and judgmental. Ms. Haramhas taken the opposite approach by allowing her Lurlene to be humble and forgiving. She gave a refreshing take on what could have been a one note performance.
Laurie McDonald, as Sara Lee, also turns in a well rounded and thought out character. She happily goes along as the put upon sibling who has stayed home to take care of their aging Father. But when she thinks that her younger sister, Evalita, may have slept with her purposed fiance, she cuts loose with both barrels firing. Ms McDonald delivers the performance of the evening. She starts out angry, then disappointed and ends in heartbreak. Again, I was glad that I was so close to the action to be able to experience the full effect of her intricate ability.
And as the out-spoken family matriarch, Mama Wheelis, Dorothy Sanders stays true to her character without ever pulling focus. In one instance she is threatening her grand kids with the razor strap and in another she loves on them. She delivers her lines with perfect comic timing by letting the words do all the work. In her program bio, Ms. Sanders claims that she is in retirement. I beg to differ. You can't turn in the fine work as she did on Saturday night and expect to stay in retirement.
Area community theaters, like Onstage in Bedford, are not only delivering well directed and acted productions but also have started to step up the design aspects of their shows. By doing so, they are not only attracting better audiences but also are encouraging area talent to find other places to showcase themselves besides the theaters inside the Dallas city limits. This, my friends, is a very good thing.
Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got The Will? By Del Shores
Onstage in Bedford
Through Feb. 6, 2011
Trinity Arts Theater, 2819 Forest Ridge Drive
Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00pm; Sundays @ 3:00pm
For tickets or more information call (817) 354-6444 or visit www.onstageinbedford.com