The Baltimore Sun

Bowie Community Theatre's production of Dearly Beloved continues the company's season of comedy that began in September with The Nerd and ends in April with Social Security.

First produced in 2005, Dearly Beloved is the second play in a series by writers Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Woolen, following Dearly Departed, produced by the team in 1992.

Set in a small Texas town, Dearly Beloved continues the saga of the Futrelle family as the three adult Futrelle sisters -- Honey Raye, Twink and Frankie -- gather at the Tabernacle of the Lamb for the wedding of Frankie's twin daughter to the son of wealthy Patsy Price, who is not pleased about her son's impending link to the Futrelles.

Frankie wants a Gone With The Wind-themed wedding with an elegantly catered reception for her daughter, and she expects her sisters to help make the arrangements, which go awry as do most other aspects of the wedding.

Although the Futrelle sisters were once a gospel singing trio known as the Sermonettes, they have drifted apart. Frankie frequently converses with her dead mother, seeking advice in dealing with her husband, Dub, who she suspects is having an affair.

Twink arrives at the church determined to marry Wiley Hicks, whom she has dated for 15 years. She has been advised by fortune-teller Nelda Lightfoot that if she can get Wiley to the wedding and have him remain through the ceremony, they'll be married in a few months.

Opening last weekend at the Bowie Playhouse, the production is directed by Joe Del Balzo, who said that in this family-centered comedy, his cast, crew and staff have also become like a family "hilariously stuck with each other."

The play is a series of vignettes where some of the relationships are not instantly apparent, although the cast is generally skilled at bringing their characters to life.

The play opens with Joanne Bauer alone onstage playing Geneva Musgrave, the Beaucoup Bouquet flower shop owner, bus depot manager and wedding organizer. Bauer's soliloquies as Geneva switching hats get the show off on a comic note.

Debbie Samek plays an edgy Frankie trying to appear serene in her hoop-skirted forest green wedding attire, striving to organize the reception that becomes something different from what she'd planned.

Instead of an elegantly catered affair, sister Twink has opted for a potluck event with friends bringing a variety of southern specialties. In addition, she has made arrangements with the local meat market to supply a pig for roasting in the church yard. Barbara Webber, properly attired for the wedding in a flower-bedecked, hoop-skirted creation, brings a frenzied comedy to Twink, who has drugged boyfriend Wiley to get him to the ceremony.

Sharon Zelefsky gets most of the laughs as the overheated menopausal Honey Raye, who shows up for her niece's wedding in a gaudy, gold metallic skin-tight dress and constantly complains about the heat. Zelefsky's Honey Raye is still searching for the right man and seems to find him in gun-toting John Curtis Buntner, played by Jack Degnan.

Nothing works as planned -- even the local minister cannot officiate because he's drying out at a clinic and has been replaced by the delivery man, a divinity student who is inexperienced in performing church ceremonies.

Playing the delivery man/novice minister Justin Waverly is Pat Reynolds, who has a crush on the bride's sister, Tina Jo -- well played by Robin Samek.

Mike Dunlop plays the confused father of the bride, who cannot understand why his wife has grown away from him. Like the others, Dunlop delivers his lines with as much comic flair as he can muster. But the lines are not consistently funny and seldom hilarious.

In truth, most of these folksy characters grow rather tiresome in the end as they try to keep the wedding guests assembled in the church awaiting the arrival of the bride and groom. The jokes are often lame and tired, and midway through the Second Act, I felt as restless as most of the unseen wedding guests.

Essentially, the actors do their shtick and move on, much like standup comedians, to their next comic bit. Some lines are amusing, but few provoked sustained laughter on opening night.

Bowie Playhouse productions usually feature fantastic sets, but in this show, scenes are either played against a black curtain backdrop or in the church hall wedding reception area that is a study in tackiness.

Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through Feb. 2. General admission $15, students and seniors $10. Call 301-805-0219 to reserve.

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