Take a modicum of “Our Town,” sprinkle a tidbit of “Steel Magnolias” and stir in a trifle of Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove, and you have an inkling of what “Second Samuel” is all about.
“Second Samuel,” the current production at Tacoma Little Theatre, penned by Pamela Parker and directed by TLT’s Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface, is the charming tale of a very small town in post-World War II Georgia.
And there is nothing more “small town” than post-WW II Georgia. Things were a lot slower then – as were people – they hold a loving memory of “Give ‘em Hell Harry” and glory over their town and its inhabitants. Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows everybody’s business. Or do they?
This is the charming story of the reaction of the residents of our quiet little town in the late 1940’s when they are confronted with planning the funeral of their beloved Miss Gertrude, the town’s most senior citizen. However, it seems Miss Gertrude does “not go gently into that good night” without leaving behind a most perplexing mystery.
The story unfolds on a fragmented set designed by Lex Gernon. He give the actors three basic acting spaces: Upstage center is the front door to Miss Gertrude’s home, compete with veranda; stage left is a bar and bait shop; stage right is a beauty salon.
Michele Graves does a realistic costume design; Jeffery Weaver dresses the set; Stacia Russell is Stage Manager.
Besides directing, Serface does the complicated light design which resembles a TV sports addict trying to watch two football games as the same time on a set with no PIP. That is, when the action is going on in the bar, the salon is frozen and dark – when the action shifts, so does the illumination.
The cast of characters is typical of any small town. There is the slightly slow young man B Flat, who acts like the Stage Manager in “Our Town” explaining to the audience antecedent events; US (pronounced You-Ess) is his best friend, Frisky is the owner of the bar where they both work; Mansel, who agrees with everyone and Mr. Mozel, who agrees with no one, are omni-present patrons; Doc, knew the answer to the conundrum but didn’t think it was anybody’s business, drops in frequently; and June is the mortician.
On the distaff side, Omaha, Frisky’s wife, owns the beauty parlor; her patrons are Jimmy Deeanne, the town snob; Marcela, the outspoken practical joker; and Ruby, the quiet one.
Mix them all together and you have a very disarming, funny – sometimes hilarious – well acted and directed evening of theatre.
Serface’s cast is comprised mostly of newcomers to TLT. Six of the eleven actors ply their craft with TLT seasoned veterans and prove their worth.
Aaron Mohs-Hale, a newcomer, gives a formidable performance as the congenial B Flat. The actor gives the character the wide-eyed innocence needed for the role. Mohs-Hale adds an underlying knowledge beyond his character’s mental capacity.
Kerry Bringman is Frisky. Bringman seems to grow better each time he’s on stage and this part is one of his best. He is firm, shying from his over-bearing wife, gentle and brusque! The actor displays all in the tight role.
Jimmy Shields is US. He is a funny man with good line delivery and shows a true compassion for his best friend, B Flat. Shields does a nice job with his character.
Bob Yount is Mansel. Yount’s character is the buffer for the other men in the show. This TLT first-timer plays Mansel as somewhat docile but faithful to the township and friends.
Tom Birkeland is Mr. Mozel. Birkeland is excellent in the role of the town grouch who is mad at everybody, including himself. His character is constant; the actor shows his character has forgotten how to smile.
Michael Dresdner is Doc. Dresdner is extremely down-to-earth with his character. One can almost see his hand in the pickle barrel as he’s doling out homespun knowledge with innocent humor.
Diana George is Omaha, the beautician and the barkeep’s wife. George is another newcomer to TLT and proves herself to be an able addition to the theatre’s stable. The actress brings out the child-like temperament of the overbearing woman who demands to have her way about everything.
Ellen Peters is Ruby, the quiet client who does as she is told. Peters is charming as the shy, helpful friend to all – who harbors an unknown streak of mischief.
Jill Heinecke is Jimmy Deeanne. Heinecke’s character is the antitheist of Ruby; JD is the town snob with just enough money and connections to hold over her “underlings.” However, Heinecke plays her as a pompous know-it-all who is as easily fooled into making a fool of herself as she is vindictive.
Neicie Packer is Marcela another new face at TLT. Parker gives Marcela the amount of verve the prankster needs to be so self-assured that everyone is willing to go along with her. This funny lady adds extra humor to the show.
Marc Carvajal is June, the mortician who is preparing Miss Gertrude for her final journey. Carvajal enters the bar as an astounded, albeit, sober bearer of news demanding a drink. As the new- to-TLT actor imbibes half a dozen doubles, he gradually becomes more intoxicated – but never overdoes it. Carvajal does one of the best “drunks” ever.
“Second Samuel” ” continues at Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I Street through February 7 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturday with 2 p.m. matinees Sunday. There is a Pay-What-You-Can performance on Thursday, February 4, 2016.
“Second Samuel” isn’t your run-of-the-mill small town of today. It goes back to the time when people and times were more simple.
See “Second Samuel” at TLT and maybe, just maybe, you will find something more than a good production with lots of laughs – you just may find the old fashion main premise of a small town, that is: Help one another – that’s what friends do.