New Depot Players performers, front, Rick Bryant as the preacher, and back from left, Amy LeCates, Patty Maguire and Connie Davis, as the Joy of Life Singers, rehearse a scene from the upcoming performance of “Dearly Departed,” which opens in Conyers on Thursday, with a special preview night on Wednesday. (Staff Photos: Karen Rohr)
There’s nothing like a death in the family to bring out the dysfunction between relatives and while it can be ugly in real life, on stage, through the creative prism of playwrights Jessie Jones and David Bottrell, it’s both hilarious and touching.
Their 1991 comedy “Dearly Departed” is being mounted by the New Depot Players and opens in Conyers on Thursday at Center Street Arts. It’s the story of what happens after Southern patriarch Bud Turpin drops dead unexpectedly at the breakfast table, and the family is left to deal with the aftermath of making his funeral arrangements.
Wife Raynelle Turpin seems not too brokenhearted by her loss and suggests “mean and surly” be written on her husband’s tombstone. Son Raybud Turpin, a not-so-successful recovering alcoholic, is stressed out because he’ll have to foot the bill for his father’s funeral. His wife Lucille, herself coping with a series of miscarriages, tries to keep Raybud sane.
Other bizarre Turpin family members include: middle child Junior, who is broke and accused of cheating on his wife; youngest daughter Delightful, who finds comfort in food, and is constantly consuming snacks; and Aunt Marguerite, Bud Turpin’s sister, a controlling and devout Christian woman whose son Royce lost his job at the sewage plant.
The audience gets to know the Turpin family through a series of short scenes (eight in the first act and nine in the second) which illustrate the family’s quirky relationships.
They argue over how to bury Bud Turpin and as they come to terms with his death and deal with it in different ways, their differences give rise to humor.
“It’s all of these types of crazy characters coming together,” said Cyndi Evans, director and veteran New Depot Players member, of the story-line.
By the end of the play, in which Bud Turpin gets a proper Southern funeral complete with a preacher and a choir singing, “all the conflicts are resolved and it’s one big happy family, but getting to that point is what makes the show funny and entertaining,” Evans said.
Evans directed the show 10 years ago for the New Depot Players and this production is a reunion of sorts for several of the actors. Seasoned performers Jay Tryall, Amy LeCates, Patty Maguire and Rick Bryant all appeared in “Dearly Departed” a decade ago.
All but Maguire are playing different parts this time, as several got somewhat “long in the tooth” for some parts, Evans joked. Maguire reprises her role as Aunt Maguerite, Tryall is the frantic Raybud and his wife is played by LeCates. Bryant is triple cast as the preacher, an old man with an oxygen mask in a wheelchair and Clyde, a family friend.
There are also real life familial relationships in the play, as Bryant’s wife, Ann Bryant, plays the old man’s wife, and Matt Tryall, Jay Tryall’s brother, plays Junior.
“I think it’s cool that brothers are playing brothers,” said Evans, who added that the two get to play a poignant scene together.
Evans said audience members should come ready to laugh at the ridiculous dysfunction between the characters but also be prepared to be moved by the love between them.
“It’s a mixture,” she said.
“Dearly Departed,” runs at 8 p.m. on April 24, 25 and 26 and May 1, 2 and 3; and at 3 p.m. on April 27 and May 4. All performances are Center Street Arts, 910 Center St. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $16 for seniors 60 and over and students with identification. A special preview night on April 23 at 8 p.m. is $10.
For more information or to order tickets, visit www.thenewdepotplayers.com or call 678-374-3224 to reserve tickets.