Not every trip to the theater involves deep meditations on the state of humanity or other high-falutin' notions. Sometimes, it is just about kicking back, unwinding and being entertained.
Studio Players closes its 56th season with a beer-and-buffalo-wings kind of play: the unpretentious, low-brow Texas comedy Dearly Beloved by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.
A Southern-fried comedy punctuated with short scenes that clip along briskly, Dearly Beloved is a lot like the Tuna series (Greater Tuna, A Tuna Christmas, etc.) with its arsenal of zany but lovable characters — here most of them women — doing zany but lovable things with a signature Southern flair.
While it will not go down in the history books as a masterpiece, this show succeeds by not pretending to be more than it is. It's high-energy, quick pacing and ensemble cast make it pure and unabashed fun.
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The play centers on the Futrelle sisters — Frankie, Twink and Honey Raye — as they try to pull off a big fancy wedding for Frankie's daughter, Tina Jo. Only problem is, neither Tina Jo nor the groom shows up to the church, leaving a sanctuary full of antsy guests. Determined to round up the bride and groom and to host a "fine Futrelle occasion," the sisters pull together, eschewing past grudges, and spend the bulk of the play finding hilarious ways to keep the wedding on, including an offstage talent show and reprisal of their old singing group, the Sermonettes.
It is refreshing to see new and different faces on the Carriage House Theater boards and even more refreshing to see a solid, female-centric comedy. Debbie Sharp, Robin Dickerson and Shea Baker are a riot as Frankie, Honey Raye and Twink Futrelle, respectively. They sink their teeth into the spirit of their disparate roles, and their energy is contagious. The opening-night audience, on Thursday, couldn't get enough of them. But in their boisterous delivery of an intentionally boisterous play, there are a few instances in which they could afford to tone down, or at least alter the cadence of, their vocal deliveries to humanize, however slightly, the play's admittedly exaggerated characters.
The supporting cast rounds out the dysfunctional townsfolk of Fayro, Texas, with small-town, quirky characterization. Sam Moody makes a hilarious entrance as a cop practicing different ways of drawing his gun, and Crystal King is contagiously sweet and charming as Tina Jo — and Tina Jo's twin sister, Gina Jo.
Director Tonda-Leah Fields deserves praise for doing just what she said she would in her director's notes: "We can't promise you a deep, thought-provoking and life-changing experience," she writes, "but we do hope we can offer you a fun evening of theater."
And fun it is.