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Daddy’s Dyin’ … Who’s Got the Will?

Here’s Crimes of the Heart flipped to comedy

“Why is it that whenever she is wrong, we’re the ones who feel bad?,” asks one sister about another in Bowie Community Theatre’s new production of playwright Del Shores’ comedy Daddy’s Dyin’ … Who’s Got the Will? Such are the family tensions at the heart of the show and, honestly, haven’t we all been there — probably very recently at a holiday gathering?
    The Turnover family has gathered at their dying patriarch’s home in a small Texas town. Assembled are three sisters, one with a companion, and a brother and sister-in-law, all estranged and traveling different paths. The year is 1986.
     Director John Nunemaker professes a great fondness for playwright Del Shores’ self-described work, which features witty-one liners and sitcom stereotypes. “Black comedy about white trash,” says Shores of his work. This is Nunemaker’s second Shores for Bowie Community Theatre, following Sordid Lives in 2011.
    Daddy’s Dyin’ fast rotation of zingers and confrontational eruptions keep the two-and-a-half-hour action spirited. The cast makes it realistic, not forced.
    The production works in great part due to Joanne Bauer’s expert characterization of Mama Wheelis, the family peacekeeper, whose motherly emotions range from love to exasperation to confusion.
    Scott Beadle is also excellent as Harmony Rhodes, the tie-dyed hippy boyfriend of wild-child daughter Evalita. Played by Bernadette Arvidson, pie-in-the-sky dreamer Evalita is endearing, annoying and likely the most complex of all the characters.
    Debbie Samek as the daughter-in-law Marlene, the butt of husband Orville’s constant verbal abuse, is another stand-out, especially in her utterly hilarious pot-smoking and pie-munching scene with Beadle.
    The actresses playing the three sisters work well as a unit. Besides Arvidson’s Evalita, they are Sara Lee, the stay-at-home daughter played by Maureen Roult; and Lurlene, the daughter who left home, played by Sharon Zelefky. They bond, then turn on each other, return to good memories, then hurt each other.
    Kaeti Bradley’s mid-1980’s  hair design and Jane Lecher’s costumes are perfect for Daddy’s Dyin’. But my goodness! In hindsight the 1980s’ sense of fashion gives me shudders: Big frizzy hair, big frilly floral dresses and white roll-top socks with black heels.
    Nunemaker keeps almost all action upstage (farthest away from the audience), only sparingly using the closer downstage area for confrontations and dramatic moments. His use of physical distance keeps the audience at emotional distance from characters and action.
    Now in its 46th season of presenting community theater, Bowie Community Theatre routinely plays to full, appreciative audiences.

With Bill Jones as the dying father and Ken Kienas as the abusive son.

Playing thru Jan. 26, FSa at 8pm at Bowie Playhouse, White Marsh Park off Rt. 3: $17 w/age discounts: 301-805-0219; http://bctheatre.com.