Front Row Center

By Shirley Appelbaum

Best Wishes
By Bill Barker
Directed By Peggy Lord Chilton
Assisted By Kathleen Neal

 

front-rowDuring the month of December, when thoughts brought us back to family and old memories, Best Wishes was the perfect evening out. Mama has passed away and the children have all gathered together at their childhood home in Liberal, Kansas for her funeral. Some have traveled long distances and others short. A few still remain in Liberal, including the eldest son “Gil”, who cannot let go of his status as “head of the family”. Five of the siblings stay in the home of their youth, with others in Motels or with other family members.

Thus, I became involved in the dynamics of a “dysfunctional family” including seven of the siblings, reunited after many years. Having been raised in a humble, but loving, home on the wrong side of the tracks, each sibling dealt with his or her own demons. While sorting through Mama’s beloved possessions, they reminisced about their relationships with their mother and each other through the years assisted, in no small way by Fanny, Mama’s lifelong friend. Emotions ran strong and there was an outstanding scene in the second act between “Elda” and “Gil” that left me saying “wow that really was terrific”! As each of the siblings began to become aware of whom he or she was and what was important to them, I couldn’t help urging them on to discovery. There were many poignant moments as well as delightfully humorous ones.

Elda, the cynical college graduate, was still running away from her humble beginnings and had to come to terms with herself. She was magnificently portrayed by Georgette Richmond. Dorie, the baby of the family and a “righteous twit”, who felt denied the love of her mother, showed her rage and jealousy by reminding her siblings how much “mama loved them”. The role was well delivered by Judy Long. Ken Bridges, who played Gil the pragmatic eldest sibling, gave a strong performance. The role of Vera, the people pleaser, was well cast and Kathleen Morris gave quite a believable performance. Crystal, the peacemaker, was sweetly acted by Wendy Hamlin in her first major role at LLT. Zane Pumiglia gave a nice even performance as the reliable son, who really didn’t want any aggravation thrown his way. Fanny, the character role of the play, was performed, as no one else could perform it, by Betty Lloyd Robinson. A delight as always, she brought some “good ole’ down home” religious humor to the play. A cameo performance by Kat Tetrault, as Mrs. Newhart, brought to the stage a delightful addition to LLT. Taking care of his overly excited, young, pregnant wife, Harry Walker as Mr. Newhart, couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

Kudos to Director Peggy Lord Chilton, her Assistant Director, Kathleen Neal and Production Assistants Michael and Joan Warren. A job well done by the Set designer, Alex Pinkerton and Set Decorators Dana Douin and Joanna Babiak. I couldn’t help noticing that though the show took place in 2011, the wardrobe was mostly “retro.” A bit strange, even for folks from “the other side of the track”. The next production is The Drowsy Chaperone, book by Bob Martin and Dan McKellar, Music by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Directed by Dave McIntosh, Choreographed by Barbara Clippinger, Musical Director, Judy Hendrick. This 1920’s Musical opens on February 16, 2013. I want to thank Michael Warren for his faith in me to review Best Wishes for this month’s Ojo.

 

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