The Aldershot Players open their season with a dark comedy by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones. Dearly Departed focuses on the redneck family dynamic of the Turpin clan in the days following the sudden death of their patriarch Bud. Director Rozz Woodcock sets the show up in a series of vignettes. She uses the small stage skillfully to represent a vast array of pre–funeral venues and car drives. With characters like Reverend Hooker, Delightful and Ray Bud, you can imagine this production is about as serious as the recent reality TV show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. In fact, imagine Honey Boo Boo and her kin preparing for a burial and the picture will become crystal clear. Dearly Departed offers an evening of light laughs and sparkling moments.
At some point in this production, each of the performers dazzles. Kim Jonasson as Suzanne has some fantastic moments preening herself in the car while she simultaneously destroys her husband’s self esteem. Bev Matteson as Marguerite is a joy as the overzealous sister and mother. Particularly her relationship with her extremely relaxed, redneck son Royce brings dynamic and humour to every scene they share. They can’t even drive in the car without having a religious war of sorts. Beverly Pitt as Raynelle has bang on comic timing ,and she knows it’s best to let the drama take care of itself. Consequently, the audience both laughs and cries for her predicament. In smaller roles Heather Hunter makes the most of her quirky characters Veda and Juanita. She creates two diverse and equally funny characters in the second act. Ralph Woodcock does the same with his Reverend Hooker and elderly character Norval. Finally, in the smallest of roles Margot Olivieri as Delightful brings the house down with her two lines. Her small portrayals were meticulous and skillful. She proves the old adage that there are no small parts.
This production isn’t perfect, but it is filled with perfect moments. Sometimes playwrights Bottrell and Jones cross the fine line between funny and tasteful. Getting over these rough spots would require a lot of finesse and skill. Woodcock isn’t always able to maneuver her cast through them. In the end, they seem like misdemeanors compared to other genuinely funny moments. In addition, there is drama in this show, but it would have been wise to not play it out actively. Drama, sadness, and loss find their way to the audience intuitively. Each audience member should be able to experience it in their own. Sometimes attempting to portray it makes it seems shallow and that can be alienating.
All in all, this is a fun night of theatre: a chance to let go of your own problems and laugh at someone else for a while. That’s a deal! V