The final production in Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s 2005-2006 season offers playgoers an opportunity to meet the Bible Belt kin of Bud Turpin in its production of Dearly Departed by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones. The comedy plays May 4-20 in the Polk Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, 505 Deaderick St, Nashville.
According to David Alford, Tennessee Rep’s executive artistic director and director of the show, “If you think your family’s
dysfunctional, wait ‘til you see this bunch! Daddy Bud Turpin’s family has to plan his funeral, but between the feuds, marital flings,
and Macaroni and Ham Loaf Surprise, the audience may expect the whole thing to escalate into a multiple-coffin memorial service.
By the time the Turpins sort through their hangovers, money problems, and headstone engraving options, they learn that coping with
life’s losses can turn out to be drop-dead funny, especially for the audience.”
Alford cites an earlier production of Dearly Departed as evidence it is one of the funniest plays ever written.
“Rene Copeland, Tennessee Rep’s producing director, directed Dearly Departed in 1996 for Mockingbird Theatre. It was a huge
hit – big crowds and laughter that would not stop. Clara Hieronymus, the theatre critic emeritus of The Tennessee, said it was ‘a
laugh fest’ and Lisa DuBois who was reviewing for The Nashville Banner back then said it left the audience in stitches. We’ve
been asked to do it again many times, so now we are! Middle Tennessee is ready for a really big laugh and we can provide it! I
think it will be even better this time on the Polk Theater stage.
Several actors in the 1996 production are appearing in the same roles in this new production: Rona Carter as Raynelle, Daddy Bud’s wife; Jan Dial as Marguerite, Daddy Bud’s Bible-thumping sister; Sam Whited as Ray-Bud, the “good” son, and Bobby Wyckoff as Rev. Hooker who expects to be paid by the hour, as well as Clyde and Norval.
New to their roles are Rachel Agee as Nadine and Delightful, Daddy Bud’s food-aholic daughter; Brandon Boyd as Junior who purchased a parking lot cleaning franchise, only to discover clean parking lots are not a priority in strip malls; Misty Lewis as Suzanne, a grief-stricken daughter-in-law; Jenny Littleton in two roles, Veda, a “model,” and Juanita, and Martha Wilkinson as Lucille, Ray-Bud’s barren wife. The only non-Nashville-based actor is Michael Abbott, Jr., who hails from East Tennessee. He plays Royce, Marguerite’s son who hopes to get on welfare by marrying and fathering a child.
Dearly Departed premiered at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., in 1991. That same year it received critical acclaim in its Off-Broadway opening at the Second Stage Theatre in New York. The New York Daily News said, “Dearly Departed is drop dead funny…but don’t take our word, see it yourself.”
Dearly Departed was then produced in Los Angeles where it received six Drama League Awards, including Best Production and Best Playwriting. It was subsequently published and has been produced in hundreds of regional theaters in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.
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