Anne Arundel County

Quirky characters abound

Could a production titled "Daddy's Girl" by a little-known playwright from Kansas offer rewarding theater? Gary Ray Stapp, who wrote his first play in 2003, sets this story - staged by Bowie Community Theater - in an eatery called Maudie's Diner and fills it with masterful one-liners and amusingly quirky characters.

"Daddy's Girl" follows 25-year widower and diner proprietor Benard Muloovy as he tries to identify his long-lost daughter.

A portrait of Benard's wife, Maudie, hangs on the diner wall, talking to him and enlisting the help of an angel to reunite her husband with their child Elizabeth.

Angel Michael brings two Elizabeths to the diner, each with the same birthday and adopted from the same orphanage. One, restaurant critic E.L., is a snob, while the other, Lizzy, appears timid until she removes her glasses and transforms into a show-stopping singer.

Benard left a secret recipe with his baby daughter, so the one who reveals the secret will prove to be his kin.

Before the mystery is solved, everyone in the diner will voice an opinion.

The play features 13 colorful characters who are distinct and varied enough to fill any television series.

Proprietor Benard is always in charge, quick with masterful retorts and generous beneath his gruff exterior.

Regular customer Bob likes to banter with Benard and bend the proprietor's rules by removing his shirt and shoes.

Ph.D. candidate Walter is articulate, until he tries to talk to forgetful waitress Betsy, who is easily confused and intent on pleasing her boss.

Maudie enjoys lecturing her husband, despite having died 25 years ago.

Her friend Darlynn, who has pursued Benard for decades, is likable and says what she thinks. She tries to get Benard's attention by changing her clothes constantly, per advice offered from an Oprah Winfrey show.

Alex is involved with E.L. and helps Walter overcome his communication problems with Betsy based on his own experiences.

Friends Daisy and Violet are senior citizen customers who finish each other's sentences.

Lizzie's adoptive mother is motorcycle mama Big Earl Ella, whose attraction to Benard frightens him and sends him into Darlynn's arms.

BCT director Joe Del Balzo has assembled a strong cast who prove adept at comedy. He also deserves credit for co-designing the authentic diner set with Cynthia Bentley.

The cast is wonderfully costumed by Janice Coffey and Jane Lecher - no small task considering the wardrobe of Darlynn alone. Light and sound design are in the competent hands of Garrett Hyde.

Outstanding actors include veterans as well as those making strong BCT debuts.

BCT veteran actor Mike Dunlop as Benard reveals sensitivity and generosity beneath his occasional rudeness to diner patrons. Dunlop adroitly handled his barbs and one-liners despite flubbing a few lines on opening weekend.

In his BCT debut, Philip Young delivers a strong performance as Walter, comically smitten by waitress Betsy.

Another strong BCT debut is made by Leah Schwartz, who as Maudie conveys her affection for Benard along with her delight in goading him.

John Mecholsky mines every comic nuance as Alex, and Nancy Dall shows strong comedic skills and an ability to create an appealing, straight-talking Darlynn.

Kate Wheeler is deliciously nasty as E.L. And Jennifer Harvey is convincing as often-confused Betsy, who leaves the diner frequently to return tips that she mistakes for customers' forgotten change.

Finally, the team of Anne Hull as Violet and Susana Romero as Daisy showcase their perfectly timed repartee as they finish each others' sentences.

If you go
"Daddy's Girl" will be presented at 2 p.m. today and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students and can be reserved by calling 301-805-0219.

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