Family brings out 'Dearly Departed'

Friday, April 16, 2004

People looking to be entertained by the exploits of a family that is potentially more messed up than their own should enjoy the River City Players' presentation of "Dearly Departed."

It is a bare-bones production, with an unadorned set, few props and no fancy costumes.

Instead, the production focuses on the smart, humorous dialogue of David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, who wrote and first presented "Dearly Departed" in 1991.

The play takes place in an undisclosed state below the Mason-Dixon line and focuses on the Turpin family as they prepare for the funeral the "mean and right surly" Bud Turpin.

Heading the strong cast is Sharon Bebout-Carr as Raynelle, the widow of Bud Turpin. "Dearly Departed" is Bebout-Carr's first experience with the River City Players, and she also served as the show's director.

The slightly over-the-top characters of Suzanne and Marguerite are humorously played by Brooke Hildebrand-Clubbs and Ellen Dillon.

Suzanne is married to Bud's youngest son, Junior, played by James VonDielingen, and has just found out he has cheated on her in the Kmart parking lot. This leads to some minor on-stage breakdowns that Hildebrand-Clubbs manages to play for laughs without overdoing it.

Marguerite is Raynelle's Bible-thumping sister who is constantly at war with her no-good son Royce, played by Bart Elfrink. The two trade insults, which can be pretty funny, but you never see any emotional connection between them, even during the play's overly tidy finale.

Less of a connection can be found in the relationship between Bud's oldest son, Ray-Bud, played by Steve Rueppel, and his wife, Lucille, played by Meredith Elfrink.

While most of the play's scenes involve the Turpin family, the scenes with nonfamily characters thrown in just serve to slow the story down.

Luckily for the audience, those scenes are few and far between, and they will get to spend most of the night watching the Turpins.

While the presentation of the Turpin family and its dilemmas would never be mistaken for realism, the play manages to reach an element of truth about life.

Families often disappoint and infuriate, but they also stick by you during the toughest times in your life.

So, go see "Dearly Departed" and be prepared to laugh and reminded of the importance of family, even though it may be far from perfect.

335-6611, extension 182

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