Total Rating: 
April 19, 2017
May 27, 2017
West Coast Black Theater Troup
Theater Type: 
West Coast Black Theater
Theater Address: 
1646 Tenth Way
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 15 min
David Bottrell & Jessie Jones
Harry Bryce

Where are both a death and its aftermath funny?  In a play that leads to a funeral of a Dearly Departed but is anything but funereal. It takes a strange path from a play about Southern rustics to a film in which all were also African Americans and to this stage version that mimics the film. Indeed, with its multitude of scenes, it seems overly long and complicated, though perhaps its best feature is The Joy of Life Singers bringing music into the darkness of scene shifts.

Heroine Raynelle (poised Dee Selmore) has just finished reading a letter to husband Bud from ostentatiously religious sister Marguerite when Bud falls dead. Family and friends are summoned, all bringing their own fusses and foibles.

Raynelle simply wants Bud’s fast deposit under a tombstone declaring he was “mean and surly.” Soon, though, everyone’s around putting in their two cents (more or mostly less) about the funeral and burial. 

The goings-on become like a series of vaudeville acts. Delightful, daughter of the deceased, incessantly snacks while watching everything. Seldom speaking, Kourtney Paige nevertheless imparts funny boredom.  Older son Ray-Bud hates funerals, as likeable Brian Boyd shows, not least because he suspects he’ll have to pay for this one. As his wife, sweet Ashley Brooks tries to help and feed everyone, since miscarriages have left them without children to care for. 

Ian Fermy’s desperate Junior has spent his money on an unsuccessful parking-lot cleaning machine, for which he is constantly nagged by wife Suzanne (Cindy De La Cruz, truly professional even at whining). Will both get over an episode of his straying because another woman has treated him well?

As Marguerite, most flamboyant of the relatives, Nate Jacobs dons dresses, hose, and high heels as if resuming his nationally famous role as busybody Aunt Rudele. No matter how hard s/he tries, though, Marguerite can’t move her lazy son Royce (whom Early Dean makes seem normal in the midst of the rest of the family).  As pastor Rev. Hooker, Michael Kinsey is almost as comically showy as Marguerite when he plans and practices the funeral sermon.

Coming to honor the dead, neighbor Veda (Lonnetta Gaines, avoiding playing long-suffering) brings along husband Norval (quiet Patric Robinson). In his wheelchair, he might seem like the dead guest of honor. (Patric is livelier doubling as Ray-Bud’s boss, paying his respects.) Lonetta Gaines also doubles, playing Juanita, a former beauty queen who thinks she still wears a crown. 

There’s a modicum of suspense as to whether or not the burial will take place and, if so, in what manner.  And will what remains of the family live on better?

Director Harry Bryce maintains a satiric viewpoint throughout.  He is not able, however, to avoid problems of the set.  Signs point to a fund raiser that never takes place. The backyard porch in the background is picturesque but static and the shifting scenes require constant furniture and props moving. On the plus side, the music and singing cover up the resulting noise. WBBT is lucky to have so many good singers in the troupe.

Dee Selmore, Brian Boyd, Earley Dean, Nate Jacobs, Ashley Brooks, Cindy De La Cruz, Ian Fermy, Michael Kinsey, Lonnetta Gaines, Patric Robinson, Kourtney Paige
Music Director & Production Mgr.: James E. Dodge II; Set: Michael Newton-Brown; Costumes: Cristy Owen; Lights: Michael Pasquini; Fight Director: Daniel Granke; Production Stage Mgr: Juanita Munford
Marie J. Kilker
Date Reviewed: 
April 2017