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Ed Graczyk's 1976 drama "Come back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean" has a simple premise: It's September 30, 1975, and a small town dime store in West Texas is hosting the reunion of a James Dean Fan Club to mark the 20-year anniversary of Giant, which was filmed nearby. The underlying premise? You can't go home again.

What plays out in that iconic luncheonette is a homecoming fraught with complexities. Dormant emotions awaken and recollections clash, as congenial reminiscences devolve into a sort of verbal strip poker--laying secrets bare in cold, disclosing light.

If you're familiar with this play, there's no point in my recapping it. If you haven't seen it before, there's no it point in my spoiling the story. Suffice it to say it's a textured, character-driven drama. Personalities collide, old wounds are reopened, secrets spill, and the plot thickens at every turn. This isn't a tale about the fifties, the seventies, movie fandom, rites of passage, or the decline of a small town. It's a timeless exploration of what we hold sacred, how our dreams shape our realities, and how boundless longings blister beneath the surface of every hemmed-in life.

Though the script is masterfully written, this is the sort of material that runs the risk of crescendoing into hyperbole or relaxing into cliché. Thanks to deft direction by Marler Stone, and nuanced performances by a solid cast, this production stays believable. I cared about the characters--without exception--from beginning to end.

This one-set, ensemble show comes with an inherent challenge: The script requires "doubling," as actors of different ages play youthful and mature versions of the same characters. These pairings often share the stage as backstory is revealed through flashbacks. I found all of those transitions convincing, compelling, and easy to follow. These actors are carefully cast, and their character developments are thoughtfully executed. Each performer manages to mirror their older/younger counterpart in temperament, mannerisms and speech with continuity, yet we can clearly see that the characters have changed over time.

Doubled or not, every performance is notable: Martha Graber is powerful as the earthy-yet-uptight Juanita. Tamara Wright and Hallie Storms, respectively, are fragile and enigmatic as Mona, (Now and Then). Leslie Lee Lansky brings an undercurrent of torment to the sassy, sexy Sissy (Now), while Meg Law exudes devil-may-care spunk as Sissy (Then). Randi Sluder provides delightful comic relief as the overbearing, bigger-than-Texas Stella Mae. Emily Burnett glows as the longsuffering, and perpetually pregnant Edna Louise. Robbie Phillips delivers a commanding performance at the mysterious Joanne, and William Henry is poignantly tender as Joe.

Thanks to the expertise of dialect coach, Rita Santi Grivach, the twang and drawl of the Lone Star State sounds subtle, natural, and consistent in every scene.

This production is enriched by a pleasing and cohesive aesthetic: Set design by Chris Sterling, set dressing and props by Bill Short, lighting and sound design by Summer Pike, and costume design by Robin Owens.

If you're looking for an enjoyable night of entertainment that will leave you with something to reflect on, and contemplate long after the stage has gone dark, look no further. This is an excellent play.

The New Moon Theatre Company production of COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN plays at Theatreworks, 2085 Monroe Avenue in Overton Square, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through April 12th,

To purchase tickets or learn more, click here.

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