By Lynn Geyer
Bud Turpin drops dead just after the opening curtain. Things get worse after that in David Bottrell and Jessie Jones’ comedy Dearly Departed, currently playing at Studio 320 at Pierce College.
This is the story of how Pop’s demise affects his extended family, which actually is very little for most because they are too involved with their own problems to let Daddy’s farewell interfere.
When his wife Raynelle, played by Theresa Keating, calls in Reverend B. H. Hooker (Isaac Bullis) to discuss the eulogy, the good reverend goes into his standard “a good man, a quiet man…” speech only to be halted by the not-so-grieving wife who corrects him with, “he was a mean, nasty man.”
The reason the biggest problem the family has on getting together for the funeral is that they have so many problems closer to home than Pop’s kicking off.
Son Ray-Bud (Caleb Pagaduan) probably feels the loss most, but he’s having problems with his wife Lucille (Abby Slusher). Likewise, for Junior (Joe Lettner) who is not only tired of being nagged by his wife Susanne (Brandi Felice) but it appears he has recently had at least one fling with a woman dumb enough to leave an earring in his car.
Donna Anderson plays the departed’s sister Marguerite, who is more interested in getting the funeral right than the fact that her brother is no longer with the family; Mason Cope is her son Royce.
Chelsea Baker is Delightful, the final member of the Turpin family who eats her way through the show.
Devin Hedegaard is Norval and Amy Jones is cousin Juanita, funeral attendees.
Some of the cast doubles in brass; Bullis also plays Ray-Bud’s boss Clyde; Felice is Veda, Norval’s wife; Baker is Nadine, a young woman who can’t seem to stop having babies; and Baker, Slusher and Felice are the Gospel “Quartet” who back up Reverend Hooker on his radio show.
This is truly an ensemble cast where each member is equally important to the plot but the playwrights have also given each at least one moment in the sun.
Anderson stands out as the stereotypical church-woman who dominates the proceedings. Felice seems to be able to come apart at the drop of a cheese-puff. Jones is charming as the self-centered cousin. However, Baker nearly steals the show as the ever-munching, little-talking Delightful; she is truly delightful.
Pagaduan and Bullis are stronger among the men.
All fledgling actors give their best efforts to the production, which the full-house audience loved!
The show is directed by Fred Metzger who also did the set and lighting design. The set is interesting as it intermingles two houses and the funeral parlor as well as the road to both straight across the full length of the fifty-foot long stage at the Studio 360 versatile space.
Dearly Departed is a funny show with plenty of laughs to keep it moving. There is always a short run at Pierce College; there are just two more chances to see this fall production, November 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. at the college theatre in the Cascade Building on the Fort Steilacoom Campus on Far West Drive in Lakewood.
Be sure to make your reservations by call the box office at (253) 964-6710. Make them soon as this funny comedy will be departed before you know it.