Ensemble cast brings life to Bowie production of 'Daddy's Dyin''

  • From left, Sharon Zelefsky, Debbie Samek, Scott Beadle, Ken Kienas, Joanne Bauer, Maurfeen Roult and Bernadette Arvidson create a lively ensemble cast in the Bowie Community Theatre production of 'Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will?”
From left, Sharon Zelefsky, Debbie Samek, Scott Beadle, Ken… (Photo by Bud Johnson for…)
January 19, 2013|By Mary Johnson, For The Baltimore Sun

Bowie Community Theatre has struck comic gold this month with playwright Del Shores' in 'Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will?"

The play was Shores' first hit play, premiering in 1987. In this edition, BCT President John Nunemaker directs with assurance and affection for this family of misfits - in some ways repeating Bowie's earlier triumph with "Sordid Lives," another warm-hearted dark comedy that enlivened the company's 2011-2012 season.

"Daddy's Dyin'" takes place in 1986, in the small Texas town of Lowake, where four siblings gather at the family farm after learning of the dire condition of their father, Buford, who has suffered a stroke after already suffering from advanced dementia.

Buford's mother-in-law, Mama Wheelis, and spinster middle sister, Sara Lee, are his resident caregivers.

First to arrive is eldest sister and minister's wife Lurlene, who has been estranged from her family, followed by beer-swilling brother Orville and his beleaguered wife Marlene, who is criticized about her weight and inability to discipline their son. Last to arrive is youngest sister Evalita, six times married and now a budding country singer with her hippie boyfriend, Harmony, in tow.

Lurlene tries to maintain peace when others clash, and she and Sara Lee initially seem more concerned about daddy's health than the location of his missing will.

Buford's misplaced will is of keen interest to Orville, who wants to get the affairs in order before his father's demise, and is most curious about his own share of the family fortune. Finding the will is also of overriding concern to Evalita, who is desperately in need of funds.

Soon all four siblings increase their bickering as their search grows more frantic, adding to the on-stage insanity and audience enjoyment.

Bowie Community Theatre's production is so skillfully directed by Nunemaker that the dated elements in Shores' 1987 work are insignificant amid the humor that springs from the characters.

A genuine ensemble piece, "Daddy's Dyin'" is beautifully realized by BCT's cast.

Debuting for Bowie in this production, Maureen Roult is convincing as spinster hairdresser Sara Lee, who has been left to care for her father while her siblings pursue fuller lives. Despite her visually distracting blue beehive hairdo, Roult projects a strong rapport with stage siblings and lends supportive warmth to Marlene's rebelling decision.

BCT favorite Debbie Samek shines as fad diet enthusiast Marlene, at first the downtrodden meek housewife until she's inspired to confront abusive Orville for his relentless bullying. Afterward, Samek's liberated Marlene discovers hilarious pleasure with hippy Harmony.

Another BCT favorite, Sharon Zelefsky, defines the role of preacher's wife and eldest sibling Lurlene with suitable self-righteousness, descending from her puritanical perch for feuds with her sisters. Her character is softened by a cathartic confession to her terminally ill father.

Bernadette Arvidson, who won the WATCH award as best featured actress for her role in "Sordid Lives," again proves an affinity for Shores' works as wild and wayward Evalita, a character who is intent on getting her share of daddy's estate. Foulmouthed and flamboyant, Arvidson's Evalita struts with sassy spunk in trashy vamp costumes, and is ready for battles in morality or partner-stealing with sisters Lurlene and Sara Lee.

As Buford, Bill Jones mixes dark humor, honest realism and a father's gentle affection to the role.

Ken Kienas succeeds in creating an irredeemably evil Orville, who pursues his self-interests while tramping on those of his wife and son. Only when he joins his sisters to sing his father's favorite hymn, "In the Garden," does he show momentary human warmth.

Scott Beale, who was nominated for the WATCH award as outstanding actor for his role as Brother Boy in "Sordid Lives" delivers another award-worthy performance as Harmony. His scene with Samek's Marlene, where they inhale "funny cigarettes," is a hilarious high point of the evening.

Perhaps the most outstanding in this fine ensemble is Joanne Bauer, who inhabits the role of Mama Wheelis, lending homey wisdom to all, savoring the wit of TV jokesters, silencing family squabbles, maintaining propriety in the Turnover home and consistently delivering deftly-timed comic lines.

A word of caution - "Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will?" contains crude language that may offend some.

Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie, had only a few seats available when I attended, making it advisable to order now for weekend shows running through Jan. 26. Remaining dates are Jan. 20, at 2 p.m.; Jan. 25, at 8 p.m.; and Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. For tickets, call 301-805-0219.

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