Dearly Departed’s Skewed (and accurate) Look at Grief for BCT

The dictionary says dark comedy is “a play, movie, etc., having elements of comedy and tragedy, often involving gloomy or morbid satire.” Bremerton Community Theater opened “Dearly Departed,” last weekend and nailed those words! The show also accurately depicts the convoluted ties of Southern families, the exorbitant costs of a modern funeral, and the twisted roads that take us out of (and back into) our marriage. But, mostly, it nailed black comedy. Because there is nothing more gloomy than death and few things more ripe for morbid humor than that tragic occasion. Ali Budge directed this excellent time at the theatre.

When the action begins, Bud Turpin is in the last throes of life, unbeknownst to his wife, Raynelle. When Bud passes to the Great Beyond, a string of events unfold in his family that unearths secrets long kept, and family crises long hidden. Through it all, Barbara Miller, in the role of Raynelle, deals with her grief on one hand and maintains her position as family matriarch on the other. Ms. Miller’s performance was nuanced in a sea of caricature, and the best performance of the night.

A black comedy about a family doesn’t work unless some of the family members are a little unhinged. Enter Junior Turpin and his wife, Suzanne. On the way to the funeral with their children, they hash over a marital crisis that threatens to overwhelm the family unit. In the role of Junior, two credits. First, to actor Eric Spencer who was very good in the role. Second, to costumer Kristi Ann Jacobson for the awesome mullet! It spoke volumes while sitting atop Mr. Spencer’s head.

As Suzanne, Hadassah Nelson played aggrieved very nicely. She also got off one of the funniest moments in the show when she spoke of her desire to be a good wife and Mom…just before incinerating her children with a blistering verbal barrage.

The lovely Bremerton Community Theatre hosts "Dearly Departed" through March 1.
The lovely Bremerton Community Theatre hosts “Dearly Departed” through March 1.

In a family of ne’er-do wells and near ne’er-do-wells, Ray-Bud Turpin has forged a good living for himself. Unfortunately, the weight of his father’s passing and of the family descending upon him has led Ray-Bud to comfort in the bottle. Along with Barbara Miller, Carl Miller, in the role of Ray-Bud, plays the role with some nuance amongst the hilarity around Bud’s demise. He is very believable in his part.

Costumer Kristi Ann Jacobson is more than a genius in the world of hairpieces. She is an accomplished actor/director in her own right and has built a fan following in Kitsap County. Drama in the Hood is pleased to be a member of the following. In this show, her turn as Lucille Turpin showed crack comedy timing and a mastery of the stage space. Very well done!

Neicie Packer plays the role of Marguerite beautifully. A Southern family in grief needs someone who speaks loud enough to cut through the cobwebs. Marguerite provides the family with her own brand of Christianity in a loud voice. Her interactions with slacker son Royce are some of the best parts of the show. Randal Powell handles his role as “Royce” very nicely.

When you attend “Dearly Departed,” make sure to pay attention to how deeply pious, and involved in their singing are The Joy of Life Singers. The passion and holy fervor these three put into their sacred numbers would almost lead the crowd to believe they are awake! They are on stage for just a few minutes and could be overlooked. Don’t make that mistake. Hadassah Nelson, Dalton Alden-Welfl Brillhart, and Rana Teresa Tan are the energetic vocalists.

Besides doing very well on the stage, Rana Teresa Tan deserves kudos as the set designer for this show. There are a lot of moving parts, and she made sure they worked properly.

The South Sound is having one of its best months of shows in a long time, as Lakewood Playhouse, Tacoma Little Theatre, and Centerstage Theatre have all put high-quality entertainment on the boards in the last thirty days. Add Bremerton Community Theatre to that list of inspired stage productions. “Dearly Departed” portrays a family that is a caricature. Or does it? By the time the patrons got to the car, some were saying, “is our family all that different?” See if this show rings a bell with your familial gatherings.

 

“Dearly Departed,” by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones. 599 Lebo Blvd Fri-Sat 7:30, Sun. 2:30 through March 1. Tickets: app.arts-people.com/index.php?actions=4&p=1 Info: bctshows.com, or 360-373-5152.

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