Perhaps the most famous of the many plays written by the playwright trio, Jones, Hope, and Wooten, is “Dixie Swim Club”. It has been produced nearly everywhere. A funny, sad, and serious story of women long past their glory years, Dixie has come to be the standard by which these writers are measured.
There are quite a few other hilarious shows penned by this trio which are making the rounds of the dinner theatre circuit, giving loads of stage vets lots of opportunities to participate in the laughs. I guess I didn’t realize this, but just last year, I, myself, got to participate, appearing in the romp entitled “Christmas Belles”. It was a blast.
In fact, every one of the JHW shows I have been able to attend is a blast, not only for the cast but for the audience as well. On Wednesday evening, at the Vantage school in Van Wert, I was able to see Off Stage Productions’ presentation of “Farce of Habit”. This story, which is a little bit romance, a little bit thriller, and a lot of comedy, is next in store for the patrons of the group which always has ’em laughing, right after dinner. The OSP crew always delivers on the laughs, and I was primed to go.
The story revolves around an inn, which is run by a couple with their own problems, but somehow manage to accumulate more woes. But, hey, it wouldn’t be funny if they solved their problems too soon, right? The couple’s son is, God forbid, an actor in community theatre, to the dismay of his wife, who is unaware of his hobby and thinks he is cheating on her. The inn owners, Wannelle and Gene Wilburn (Kelly Smith and John Vining) each have their own cross to bear. She can’t give up caffeine and he can’t stop scratching. Everywhere. The two actors are a match for each other in parts which must be over the top. Some of Kelly’s facial expressions are precious and torturous at the same time. Mr. Vining’s scratching is appropriately annoying. He really wants to fish, not help his wife out with the inn tasks. These two must carry much of the first act, and they make it work.
Son, Ty, the theatre nerd, is hilarious, not just because of the incredible costumes he carries off, but because of the deadpan expressions, he can manifest when the others are making fun of his attire. A fun role for Jonathan Denny. He did a great job in the five-inch heels. Ty’s wife, (Or is she?) Jenna, is played with verve by Rachael Dettrow. She is going to make her hubby pay for his “discretion” and plays him like a fiddle. She gets her chance to play dress-up as well, later on.
In fact, if I had to characterize this script, I would call it a “comedy costume piece”. It seems like everyone gets to try something outrageous on, and director Matthew Krol and his staff have found some pretty outrageous clothes. They were colorful, appropriate, and well-constructed. I was always wondering what kind of crazy thing would appear on stage next.
There are others, without whom this play would be less-than-exciting. As the famous talk show host, Jock McNair, Steve Bricker, is a pain in the rear section. We don’t like him, and we aren’t supposed to. Bricker is more-than-adequate at being this kind of pain. Kecia Pontius plays Barbara Stratton, McNair’s furious, soon-to-be-ex-wife. She has a maniacal look to her that both gets us giggling and frightens us. Dolores Foreman is the local cop, Maxie Wilburn Suggs, and sister to Gene Wilburn. Maxie is kooky and also gets her own wild costume. Foreman is dense, when she needs to be, yet full of “wisdom”.
Two of my favorites, Lisa and Ed Eichler round out the cast. Lisa plays the nun, Sister Myrtle Agnes, who appears revolted by some of the goings-on in the inn, but has her own ax to grind. Ed gets the enviable task of playing a witless and spastic character, Huddle Fisk, who visits the inn in search of an interesting vacation and finds it, to his great satisfaction. The Eichlers always know how to flesh out their characters and are a joy to watch.
I Googled the writing trio for this show and discovered that I had been aware of several of their efforts. I would be the first to recommend them to you, including this play. It has a great share of laughs and memorable characters.
You are encouraged to make reservations for the dinner-theatre nights, Saturday and Sunday, October 27th and 28th. A performance will also be presented on Friday the 26th, which will not include dinner. To get tickets, call 419-605-6708. Enjoy!