Aspirin and Elephants

Reviewed by Clyde Morrison

Aspirin and Elephants is an adult comedy about real people in a real situation.  This play was put on by Pinewood Players, Inc.  Les Maurseth directed his first play for the Players and did a superb job.  He had some new actors and some experienced ones and put them into a fine performance of this comedy.  His ideas for a simple stage setting and the easy switch from cruise stateroom to other staterooms by the lighting changes made the play move right along without dead time between scene changes.

The stars of the show were Joe and Gina Burton.  They played an older couple who were taking their adult children on a cruise.  Joe had many funny one-liners throughout the play and got the most out of them.  He reminded me of Walter Matthau with his grouchy but lovable character with his voice and delivery.  His stage wife (and real wife) Gina played his loving and understanding wife.  My favorite scene for her was the time when she gave a monologue to her daughters, telling them a little history of her life with her husband.  That almost brought a tear to this old reviewer’s eyes.

The two brand new actresses, Terry Brown and Elyse Webber, fit right in as their two daughters.  Terry Brown’s Stephanie Gale was married to a successful, though controlling and thoughtless businessman.  When she got her courage up in her talk with her father, the audience just wanted to stand up and cheer and say “Way to go girl.  Right on.”  Elyse Webber played the sexy daughter, Liz Nathan, who was also very successful but was married to a struggling author.  She loved her husband and did not want him to feel bad because she was so capable in what she did, and he could not get any of his writing accepted.  She was torn between accepting a new fantastic job and remaining a loving wife.  Elyse was excellent in showing us that conflict.

The two sons-in-law also had difficult parts to play.  Brian Cantrell was the unsuccessful writer (Arnie Nathan) who loved his wife’s abilities but he felt completely useless to her as her provider and helpmate.  Scott Sustman, on the other hand, was a very successful businessman (Scott Gale) who could afford to keep his wife in furs and also keep a girlfriend happy.  As a husband, though, he was a real bas – – ard.  However, in the scene between the two men and later between Scott and his wife, he unburdened his true feelings.  That was a complete reversal in his personality, but Scott was up to the challenge.

This reviewer was impressed by all six of the performers’ abilities in getting their characters across.

Review of Southern Fried Funeral
By Vy Armour

Southern Fried Funeral is a genuinely funny play with a cast of characters who portray, as Director Linda Sustman says,  “the best and worst of Southern manners, traditions and family dynamics.”  Casting was excellent, as were the performances of the eleven actors including three who were making their debut on the Pinewood stage:  Sandy Dyke, Kathy Vogt and Bob Flach.

Set in a small Mississippi town, the action takes place over several days when friends and family gather after Dewey Frye has dropped dead telling a joke at the Rotarian’s weekly meeting. His widow, Dorothy, played by Marsha Propps, brings to life the role of the strong Southern woman. Marsha says comedy is her first love and it shows as she manages to bring out humor at a somber time in Dorothy’s life.  As a veteran actor, she shows her ability to play a fully dimensional character when she touches our hearts in the scene where she displays her sense of loss.

Dorothy’s daughters, Sammy Jo Frye (played by Sandy Dyke) and Harlene Frye (played by Jayne King Heckman) are excellent in their roles of sisters who have sibling rivalry and issues that have built up for the past ten years. It’s hard to believe that this was Sandy’s debut performance and hopefully she will return to the Pinewood stage. Jayne was perfectly cast as the sister who personified perfection and also played this role to perfection.  Sandy was very convincing in the role of the overbearing bossy sis.

Dorothy’s son, Dewey Jr., played by Brian Cantrell, provides many comedic moments as he is daft in a sweet weird way. He weaves in and out of the scenes with his own peculiar agenda that always elicits a laugh from the audience.

As the plot develops we meet Atticus Van Leer, the family lawyer, played by Scott Sustman. This is Scott’s second play of the season where once again he displays his versatility in acting, somehow fitting whatever role he has so perfectly.   We also meet the deceased’s brother, Dub Frye, played by Les Maurseth, who says his role is the “snake in the grass”. This is not the first villain he has played and hopefully it will not be his last. Careful Les or you will soon be “type cast”.

Gene Propps plays Beeham Leffette, husband of Sammy Jo, exhibiting extreme patience and loving kindness to her in spite of her faults. Gene is a veteran actor, most notably known for his excellent repeat performances in Readers’ Theatre as Lou Costello in “Who’s on First?”

Barbara Maurseth returns to the Pinewood stage as Dorothy’s best friend in an excellent performance as does Sandy Kyle as Fairy June Cooper, a ditsy friend who has some great lines and delivers them with conviction!   Bob Flach, a newcomer to the stage, plays Benny Charles, best friend of the deceased. He tries to keep a steady head while keeping his toupee on.

And last but definitely not least (in fact she is a show-stopper)  is Kathy Vogt in the role of Ozella Meeks, the overzealous chairwoman of the church Sun Shine Committee.  One would never guess that this is her first appearance on the Pinewood stage. She has great stage presence and her facial expressions and body language are as powerful as her dialogue.

This review would be remiss to not mention the beautiful set design of the family home and also the ability of all the actors to speak in authentic southern drawls and stay in character throughout the play.  Credit must also be given to the many crew members behind the scenes including Alta Thompson, Terri Brown, Cathy Rasmussen, Betsy Froderman, Joe Brown, Jim Burnett, Terri Seiber, Bill Heckman, Pam Keating, Cassie Walters, Sandy Forsythe, Dovey Templin,  Jane Edwards, Tim Forsythe, Harold Withers, and Carlos Navarette.

And kudos to Director, Linda Sustman, who we are so fortunate to have in Munds Park– all the way from Texas, where she has written and produced an annual production in her hometown for more years than she cares to say. It’s obvious this cast worked hard to produce such a polished performance but what also came through was their enjoyment of the performance and each other as well.

What a pleasure to be asked to write a review when a play is so well done.  The praise is genuine.  And to close with a true southern phrase…Bless all their hearts!

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