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Comedy pokes fun at the South

The Lincoln Theatre Guild’s “Dearly Departed” has a cast of recognizable, southern characters.
“It’s very cornbread and sweet tea,” said director Ryan Gurganious.
The play will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Lincoln Cultural Center and at 2 p.m. Sunday. There will be an additional performance Oct. 5 at North Lincoln High School.
“Dearly Departed” opens with the death of Bud Turpin, the patriarch of the Turpin clan, at the breakfast table.
From there, his wife, children and extended family must deal with visitation, the funeral and each other.
The widow is full of bitterness, and her sister-in-law is focused on fire, brimstone and damnation.
“Of course, she’s better than everyone else – holier,” said Shelley Cook, who plays the part. “Everyone else is a demon.”
Then there’s the oldest son Ray-Bud who drinks as the funeral expenses mount, and the youngest son, Junior, who has to constantly defend himself against his suspicious wife.
Adam Hoyle, who plays Junior describes him as a “good-for-nothing, can’t-do-anything womanizer.”
The rest of the Turpin family isn’t much better. One picks her ears. Another, at the age of 23, has been married seven times. Yet another can’t let go of her glory days as “Yam Queen.”
Then there’s Royce, the nephew of the deceased, who “doesn’t really do much. He got laid off from the sewage plant not too long ago, and he lives off unemployment checks, and he hates his mother,” said Sylvester Stroud, who plays the part.
Friends of the Turpin family also make an appearance and even the reverend who officiates the funeral provides a number of laughs.
“He talks a lot of religious-slash-biblical talk,” said Craig Gafney, who plays the reverend. “It sounds so good, but it really doesn’t mean much.”
The play’s characters may be ridiculous, but they’re not fantastical.
“I think they’re exaggerated a little bit, but around here, it’s true to life,” said Angela Stroud, who plays Raynelle Turpin, the widow. “We’ve all got some dysfunctional family members if we look closely enough.”
And all that dysfunction comes front and center as the family joins together to grieve.
The play, which is appropriate for ages 12 and up, is full of politically incorrect humor in unexpected places. Underneath, however, there’s a serious plot.
“It’s about how short life is, and how important it is to make the most of the time you have, to not be mad about the little things,” said Alison Kitchkommie who plays both Vita, an old woman, and Juanita, a boyfriend stealer.
This is the third time the Theatre Guild is presenting “Dearly Departed,” and the director believes it will be a success.
“The popularity of this show is starting to grow across the nation,’ Gurganious said. “It’s especially popular in the South because of the way everybody is able to identify with what’s going on.”
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Want to go? The Lincoln Theatre Guild’s “Dearly Departed” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Lincoln Cultural Center and at 2 p.m. Sunday. There will be an additional performance at 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at North Lincoln High School. For more information call (704) 483-3632.
by Sarah Grano

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