Colette Delaney, Tina Jo Wallace, & Brian Bowman in Southern Fried Nuptials. Photo courtesy Derby Dinner Playhouse.
Southern Fried Nuptials
By J. Dietz Osborne and Nate Eppler
Produced and Directed by Bekki Jo Schneider
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Everybody loves a wedding, but in this case, the bride is showing signs of cold feet. Harlene Frye (Tina Jo Wallace) has finally agreed to marry Atticus Van Leer (Brian Bowman), who has loved her since elementary school. In a state of exasperation, Harlene wants to postpone the wedding because she can’t get the seating arrangements figured out. Her mother Dorothy (Colette Delaney) listens to her daughter’s worry but assures her that all will work out in the end. The doorbell rings and out runs Dewey Jr (Bill Hanna), affectionately called Dewdrop, with a clipboard in hand ready to take on his duties for the wedding, recording all of the gifts that arrive. As with many close knit Southern towns, a wedding is a community affair and soon a contingent of people begin to fall onto the Frye household. This is how Osborne and Eppler’s Southern Fried Nuptials begins.
Dorothy’s long-time friends Martha Ann Fox (Elizabeth Loos) and Fairy June Cooper (Debbie King-Raque) arrive with the wedding dress that Harlene reluctantly tries on. While doing so the doorbell rings once again and in comes a part of Harlene’s past, Carter Canfield (Zachary Burrell), a man with whom she was involved with while living in Dallas. Once Harlene and Carter have a moment alone he lays a bombshell on her that postpones the wedding, indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Harlene’s sister and brother in law Sammy Jo (Janet Essenpreis) and Beecham (Cary Wiger), respectfully, have a secret that they are keeping from the family and Sammy Jo is doing her best to keep it a secret, despite Beecham’s suggestion to come clean.
When Martha Ann and Fairy June arrive back at the Frye household they announce to Dorothy and Harlene that their original wedding planner would not be able to complete the task and so they hired someone else. Enter town busy body Ozella Meeks (Rita Thomas) and her friend Vester Pickens (Jon Huffman). Despite having a less than pleasant experience with the Fryes in the past, Ozella is willing to help Harlene have a beautiful wedding. It is then that everyone learns that the wedding is called off because of Carter’s arrival and announcement.
Now, I think that you can guess that there is going to be a happy ending and you would be correct, but I’m not going to spoil any of the events that lead up to that moment.
What I will say is that to get all of the jokes, it helps to know Southern Fried Nuptials’ big sister, Southern Fried Funeral. Now, that is not to say that you won’t find some great laughs and tender moments should you not be familiar with the previous work, but knowing some of the backstories adds to the experience.
As with the plot development in Funeral, there is a similar problem in Nuptials…. predictability. But whatever is lacking in plot development it is made up for in sweet moments, and humorous jabs at family life. Osborne and Eppler are crafty in their ability to find levity in some of our most complex and emotionally charged times of life.
When I looked at the actor’s list on the wall outside of the performance space of Derby Dinner Playhouse one word came to mind…. family. Through the decades of Derby Dinner Playhouse’s successful tenure here in the Kentuckiana area, all of the actors cast in the show have worked with each other at various times in their career with DDP and/or in the Louisville Arts community at large. Part of the enjoyment of watching this production was in watching how each actor played to one another just as a family does, complete with knowing facial expressions and maybe even a few side eyes.
Zachary Burrell played Carter just as he should, a handsome cad. Jon Huffman as Vester was endearing and lovable. I was happy to see Rita Thomas return as Ozella and she played her just as a busy body should. Cary Wiger’s Beecham most certainly added the right tone of sensibility and measure to the changes taking place within the Family Frye. Brian Bowman’s Atticus was centered and true about his love for Harlene. While Elizabeth Loos did not play Martha Ann in DDP’s production of Funeral, she certainly made the role delightful. Janet Essenpreis’ Sammy Jo was just as I remembered her before, protective and not wanting to reveal too much. Colette Delaney’s Widow Frye was the embodiment of an elegant and proud Southern woman. Tina Jo Wallace’s delivery of Harlene was frenzied and frazzled…just like a bride-to-be.
Bill Hanna’s Dewey Jr. and Debbie King-Raque’s Fairy June have some of the best lines in the Southern Fried franchise and Nuptials certainly is no exception. Watching these two portray these characters is tons of fun.
The Production crew knocked it out of the park with their choice of wardrobe, set design and lighting. It was fun seeing bright boxes with bows strewn throughout the stage. Pacing and stage direction was timed well.
Bekki Jo Schneider has produced yet another great reason to embrace the Arts in Kentuckiana with this delightful comedy that takes us to the Magnolia trees and Southern Sass of the Mississippi South and the Frye family.
Southern Fried Nuptials
August 23 – October 1, 2017
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.