Using laughter to soothe life's pain


Colonial Players can be counted on to introduce works by lesser-known playwrights, and will do it again tomorrow night with the opening of "Dearly Departed," the first play of David Bottrell, co-written with Jessie Jones.

An actor turned playwright, Bottrell has performed at off-Broadway theaters and acted on several network television soaps and in HBO's "And the Band Played On."

Directing the production will be Joe Thompson, award-winning playwright and Colonial Players member since 1968.

"This is called a dark comedy," Thompson said. "Dark, because it cuts close to the edge of things that hurt us - things we would rather keep locked away in some dark place and ignore. But there is a better way of dealing with these things: through laughter."

This humorous take on death focuses on a dysfunctional Southern family of eccentrics who come together to figure out how to bury the family patriarch - Bud Turpin, who keels over in the play's opening scene.

Eldest son Ray-Bud returns to alcohol for solace as the bills mount for his father's funeral. Funeral expenses also concern younger son Junior, already on the brink of bankruptcy.

Turpin's widow, Raynelle, wants the words "mean and surly" carved on her husband's tombstone. The deceased's sister, Marguerite, is a Bible-spouting Southern Baptist convinced that her relatives are going straight to hell, especially her worthless son, Royce.

Ray-Bud's sister, Lucille, is the compulsive peacekeeper of the family, and her insecure daughter, Delightful, copes by stuffing herself with junk food.

Last seen as Lennie in CP's "Of Mice and Men," Brian Blanchard will play the roles of the Rev. Hooker, Norval and Clyde. Seen as Belise in CP's "Learned Ladies," Mandy Dalton will play Delightful and Nadine.

Having spent his entire nine-month CP career behind the scenes, Joe Del Balzo will make his acting debut as Ray-Bud. Also making her CP debut is veteran actress Janet Luby, who will play Marguerite.

Last seen as Whit in CP's "Of Mice and Men," Pat Reynolds will play Royce. After piling up stage credits in Florida, returning Annapolitan Julie Richman makes her first CP appearance playing the role of Suzanne. Also making her CP debut is Debbie Samek, who'll play Raynelle.

CP veteran actor Daniel Hackler Sullivan plays Bud Turpin. Recently relocated from California, veteran actress Katie Wheeler will be seen as Lucille. Dani Wildason, involved with Colonial Players for over a year, plays Juanita and Veda.

"Dearly Departed" will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, through June 2. Tickets are $11 for Fridays and Saturdays, $8 for Thursdays and Sundays. Senior citizens age 65 and up and full-time students may attend Thursdays and Sundays for $6. The theater is at 108 East St. Reservations: 410-268-7373.

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