by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones
Pluff Mud Productions
Isle of Palms, SC - October 1994
This Show Is A Hit
BY SANDY KATZ
Charleston's Free Times 10/10/94
Sometimes the only time you really know what a person is really like is at his funeral. Wives keep secrets about mean and surly husbands until their husband dies. Then there are all those distant relatives there to spill out their guts, too. It may not seem like a laughing matter, but . . . You could die laughing at how the Pluff Mud actors play out this scenario.
The Pluff Mud program gives credit to Blade (bar tender at Windjammer) for finding the right song which plays during each scene change. Lyle Lovett’s Since The Last Time set the scene, provides the right continuity and mood to give Dearly Departed an artistic edge.
The setting was somewhere below the Mason-Dixon Line. The time is the present. The play revolves around the trials and tribulations of arranging the funeral of Bud played by Malcolm Burgis. He had no lines but his presence and death scene is memorable . . . and the family members were characters out of the Adams Family with Southern accents.
Director Steve Lepre has his work cut out directing this large cast of 20 performers. Timing is of the essence as he keeps the actors in character. The pace of the show is as smooth as a well tuned instrument.
The matriarch of the family, widow Raynelle played by Gene Glave, fits her part as a glove. She holds her own and manages to hold this family together magnificently with all the charm and dignity of a true Southern lady.
The family drill instructor/religious zealot sister of Bud, Marguerite, complete with her bee-hive wig, would not even let the dead enjoy a little peace and quiet. What energy and stamina it took for Darlene Burgis to play this part and she kept on with her ranting and raving throughout the duration of the show without missing a beat . . . and sometimes she didn’t even give herself time to catch her breath. lt was usually her unemployed, good-for-nolhing son that got the brunt of all the tongue lashing. 6itt Smith as Royce stood his ground Ina fueled his mother’s wrath to the point of hilarity.
WARNING! The audience should bring their Depends to get through this show dry.
Ray-Bud played by Andy Cohen could be accused of over-acting but that was the part he plays and his actions and body language were superb. Being married to Lucilie, played by Andrea Darnell, is a challenge. She could have been the role model ol Church Lady of Saturday Night Live fame. You really see what she’s made of during the final scenes as she says,” That’s a poor choice of words.”
Robin Shuler as Suzanne, wife of the dreamer and failure in the family Junior, is outrageously funny in this part. She was all over the stage acting out her part from her heart and soul. lt was hard not to keep your eyes glued to her, because even when she was just sitting around supposedly minding her own business she was funny almost in a Lucille Ball fashion. Hart Littlejohn as Junior was the supreme cause of all her frustrations and aggravations and he did it well.
There were many non-nuclear family member characters that deserve mention. Will Oldmixon pops in and out of this play as Reverend Hooker sporting a wig and takes on the preaching presence. Young Daughter Delightful played by C. Nicole Streetman is a member of the family... However, she plays the part of a young lady in a bloated body who just sits around as a BLOB. Her padded body structure speaks lor itself. She’s there but as a family member tolerated and really blends so well as part of the scenery. What a great costume! She looks like a bump on a log or just a log! Very funny
The old married couple, Veda (Janice Horst) and Norval (Dan Lykins), added the right comic relief of the already hilarious show. Pregnant cousin Nadine (Margaret Vinsel) is dressed to the nines showing off her seven illegitimate children fathered by seven different men. What a character Then there is Juanita (Suzie Celentano), the picture perfect friend of the family so uppity and snooty and charming hiding a miserable life behind this facade to round off the cast of characters... with the emphasis on the word characters. Seeing is believing!
Dearly Departed gets belly laughs
BY DOTTIE ASHLEY
Post & Courier Reviewer 10/06/94
Having seen the Gothic Southern comedy Dearly Departed in an Off-Broadway theater in New York, I was wary as to how a fledgling theater group would handle the complex layers of characterizations. But I was not disappointed.
Pluff Mud Productions, a new troupe on the Isle of Palms, elicited rounds of belly laughs from the capacity audience at the show’s opening Tuesday at the Windjammer Restaurant. Director Steve Lepre brought a dark sophistication to the series of vignettes by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, who clearly were influenced by such playwrights as Beth Henley, Jack Heifner and Preston Jones, not to mention Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, who co-wrote and acted in Greater Tuna, the grandfather of all modern Southern comedies.
As a family gathers to mourn the death of old Bud, their patriarch, the colorfully drawn characterizations shoot sparks through an evening that combines irony with humor, causing us to think about what we do in our lives just because “it’s the right thing.”
Especially notable in the 15- member cast is Darlene Burgis as Marguerite, the overly emotional sister of the deceased, who declares her brother “has been hanging by a thread for years.” Ms. Burgis skillfully manages to keep from going over the top in her portrayal, which is no small accomplishment.
Brilliantly sleazy is Hart Littlejohn’s portrayal of Junior, the trashy younger son, who invests and loses all his money in a machine that washes parking lots. As a matter of fact, Junior winds up having an affair in the Kmart parking lot. Robin Shuler is a terrific nag as his wife, who is constantly screaming at their three bratty children.
A richly drawn character, with only three words of dialogue, is Bud’s youngest daughter Delightful, hilariously played by C. Nicole Streetman, who munches on potato chips and whatever else she can get her hands on during the entire show. Her mute, obese presence is supposed to be “a comfort” to her mother.
Bringing a true sweetness to the general turmoil is Andrea Darnell as Lucille, the wife of Ray-Bud. She’s a woman who desperately wants children, but can’t seem to carry to term. However, Lucille is the one who guides everyone else through their individual horror stories. Dearly Departed provides considerable insight into both the comfort and the tyranny of families, and shatters several myths concerning what makes people happy.