It’s got to be a brilliant stroke of metaphoric logic on the part of playwrights David Bottrell and Jessie Jones that grumpy old Bud Turpin, the grubby patriarch of a dysfunctional southern clan, topples dead into a laundry basket at start of the play, because the next hour or so is going to be spent airing a lot of family laundry, as his wife, children and grand children try to lay him to rest.
This is a truly funny play, carried off wonderfully by Ladysmith Little Theatre. It’s one of those scripts where the central character is like a dark, alien planet – a hole in space that remains to all intents invisible, but whose inescapable gravity draws out the flaws and foibles – the worst, you might say – in every other character.
As they make their ways to the side of Bud’s not-so-grieving wife Raynell (Marni Hastings), and go through the complicated motions of organizing his funeral, it becomes apparent that the only peace Bud could ever have truly hoped for was in the grave.
You almost feel sorry for him.
And even there, he would not be left in peace, if Marni’s wish to have the honest epithet ‘mean and surly’ chiseled onto his tombstone, was fulfilled.
Her staunch, vindictive honesty is denied though, and by the end there’s been a rapprochement of sorts between the family and the dearly departed – a sort of collective understanding that, although Bud’s flaws may have been particularly egregious, not one of his ancestors could claim to be normal, in any honest sense of the word… and by extension, no-one in the audience could either.
Everyone’s grown up a bit in trying to maintain at least a modicum of decorum for Bud, who may or may not have deserved it.
The cast does a great job with this play, under the direction of Pat Zogar. Marni Hastings captures the dignified anger of Raynell toward her dearly departed husband Bud with austere confidence; Inge Cathers brings on the Hallelujahs with her exuberant portrayal of the evangelically inclined Marguerite; and Vic Duffhues as the patent leather and polyester Reverend Hooker adds his blessings to the whole performance.
Dearly Departed runs to Oct. 25, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday Matinees at 2 p.m.
For tickets and information phone the Little Theatre box office at 250-924-0658 (open Wednesday and Friday 1 to 3 p.m.) You can visit LadysmithTheatre.com for info.