The Golden Chain Theatre’s latest production, “Dearly Departed,” opens its nine-show run at 7 p.m. Friday.
A quirky, dysfunctional, yet loveable family is faced with planning a funeral for family patriarch Bud Turpin - a story-line that although a little dark, will provide audiences with plenty of laughs.
“This show opening Friday night is rated PG-13 for language and adult situations, but “Dearly Departed” is sure to make you laugh and warm your heart,” explained Co-Director Melinda Rich.
Turpin unexpectedly dies at his breakfast table, and family members quickly rally around his widow, Raynelle, (Mary Helen Mierkey) to help with the funeral arrangements.
Hilarity commences as Ray Bud, Bud’s eldest child (George Rich) and his wife, Lucille (Melinda Rich) have no choice but to be the reluctant financial backers of the funeral.
Co-Director Rich has never directed and admittedly was apprehensive of her new challenge.
“There is an expectation of people going to a production at the Golden Chain Golden Chain ... an expectation of excellence they have seen in recent GCT productions and I was afraid “Dearly Departed” would fall short of that,” Rich said.
Those feelings soon evaporated after Rich and co-director Jordan Michel made their selections of cast members.
“Any apprehension I had was greatly relieved due to the high caliber of people who will perform in the show,” Rich said. “I’m grateful for the cast we have. I knew early on that no matter what I did, or did not do, in the director’s chair, this cast would pull off a great performance that would leave the audience very happy that they came to the show.”
“Dearly Departed” brings back some familiar cast members that have not graced the GCT stage for awhile.
Although known for her musical productions at Sierra Pines Church, Heather Sconce has not performed on the GCT stage in four years, and “Dearly Departed” Co-Director Michel last performed as one of the hilarious Costazuela brothers in “The Odd Couple - The Female Version.” George Rich played the other brother.
With the exception of the 2015 GCT Christmas show, Jennifer Piccolotti was last seen in that year’s spring production of “The Wardrobe,” playing Magda, and James Mierkey and his mother Mary Helen Mierkey return after almost a year, last playing in the highly regarded production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“I play Bud’s sister Marguerite ... I’m afraid she’s a very negative stereotype of a ‘bible thumper,’” Piccolotti said. “She knows her scripture and attends services regularly, but needs to work a bit harder on how to apply that to her own life.”
Piccolotti said she wanted to be a part of “Dearly Departed” because the script is different, a bit irreverent and very funny.
“The directors and cast are also extremely talented and naturally funny so I just knew that the whole process would be a great experience,” Piccolotti said. “In my role as Marguerite I don’t think I’ve ever looked so hideous on stage ... not even when I played a street prostitute with no front teeth in Jack the Ripper. I really hope this character is not like looking into a mirror at the future me...Ick.”
Although she has served as stage manager for several GCT productions including “Godspell,” for Michele Niewohner, this show is her first experience with a character role (Delightful) on the GCT stage.
“Delightful doesn't care about much, other than food, and people pretty much annoy her,” Niewohner said. “Line-wise, she does not have much to say ... at all ... so that hasn't been a problem. Character-wise has been interesting in that she can be very expressive but also aloof. Fine line and I pray that I have gotten it right.”
One of five actors in the current GCT traveling Mini Melodrama performing at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad , Niewohner is following her 10-year-old daughter Teagen onto the stage. Teagen, a fifth grader at North Fork elementary, has been in “Godspell,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “I Believe,” and “Suessical,” and is also in “Dearly Departed,” as one of Nadine’s many children.
“Being involved at the Golden Chain Theatre with my daughter Teagen has given us a wonderful opportunity to test ourselves as well as do something fun together,” Michael said.
Details: “Dearly Departed” - 7 p.m., Friday’s and Saturdays Aug. 12-13, 19-20, 26-27 - 2 p.m., Sundays, Aug. 14, 21, 28. Golden Chain Theatre, 42130 Highway 41 (just north of El Cid Mexican Restaurant) - Tickets: $8 - $15 -(559) 683-7112 (10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday), www.goldenchaintheatre.org.