BWW Reviews: Wimberley Players Brings Professionalism, Humor, and Heart to COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME
I'm convinced that the city of Wimberley houses the Central Texas theater community's best kept secret: The Wimberley Players. The humble theater company in the small town of Wimberley is one of the best, brightest, and most professional theater companies in the area. Even Austinites who are vehemently opposed to gassing up the car and spending a little time and energy to drive south of the river would agree that Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is well worth the trip.
The play, written by Ed Graczyk in 1976, packs quite a bit into its two hour running time. It's a comedy. It's a drama. It's about America's celebrity culture. It's about religion. It's about homophobia. It's about friendship. And, if done right as it is at Wimberley Players, it's about one of the best American plays you're bound to see.
As we witness the 20 year reunion of a small-town James Dean fan club, the play swings back and forth in time and the multitude of topics above are discussed. So much commotion could be hard to follow, but director David Bissett ensures that it's not. He has a gift for taking this complex, multi-layered show and making it feel fluid, easy, and simple. The clever lighting design by Bill Peeler also helps matters. The 1976 scenes are lit in warm amber tones, while the 1950s scenes are lit in light blues. Whether lit in ambers or blues, Denice Calley's set looks fantastic.
But what really makes Come Back to the Five and Dime so effective and memorable is its cast. Celeste Coburn plays the leading role of Mona as a sort of glamorless Blance DuBois. The choice is an appropriate one. Like Blance, Mona lives in her own fantasy world where she's come to believe the lies she's told to keep her fantasy alive. It's thrilling to watch her slowly confront the lies she's spun for decades, and it's loads of fun to see her juxtaposed against Leigh Shelton's plucky and optimistic take on Mona's younger self.
Kortnee McDowell is wonderfully funny as Sissy, Mona's sexually confident, foul-mouthed best friend. I have a soft spot for fearless females, and the character of Sissy, especially as played by McDowell, is the epitome of fearlessness. Still, there is some vulnerability underneath Sissy's skimpy clothing, and McDowell brings that out as well. As Younger Sissy, Laura Jean Tomerlin completely echoes McDowell's mannerisms and characterization. The two performances are so in sync and the two look so similar, it may take a moment to realize that they're not actually the same actress.
The supporting cast also turns in some phenomenal performances. Lindsey Burnett is adorable as the loveable, dimwitted Edna Louise. The poised and elegant Brandi Rose Atchley is fantastic as the mysterious Joanne. Jarred Tomlinson gives a delicate, nuanced performance as Joe, the only male member of the fan club. As the rich and wisecracking Stella Mae, Tracy Arnold is a scene-stealer. And finally, Carla Daws is exceptional as the store's owner, Juanita. While I'm sure playing a homophobe would make any actor or actress uncomfortable, Davis doesn't shy away from it. Because of Davis's choice to show the good and bad of her character, certain moments where she shows empathy and compassion have more resonance.
Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN plays The Wimberley Playhouse at 450 Old Kyle Road now thru May 4th. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm. Tickets are $18. For tickets and information, please visit www.wimberleyplayers.com