Published October 7, 2009
Yee-haw and woo-hoo! The Grand Ole Opry-style of broad, redneck Southern comedy is alive and well at Starlight Dinner Theatre, with “Southern Hospitality,” the third in a trilogy of plays by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.
Is there an audience for this vaudevillian, “Hee-Haw” influenced farce?
Judging by the crowd at last Friday’s opening performance, hell, yes!
Starlight founder Linda Granger has cleverly captured a niche of the live theater market here, seniors and their precocious grand-teens. Twenty tables of eight were filled with an audience of mostly older folks. Included in this bunch were a table or two of whitehaired ladies, resplendent in red hats and purple garb.
Central to “Southern Hospitality,” and this trilogy, are the witty Futrelle Sisters, led by Granger, as Honey Ray, and including Rhonda Lynn (Mary Koenigsknecht), Twink (Emily English) and Frankie- Futrelle-Dubberly (Jane Goebel). A bigger-haired bevy of low-class charmers might never ever be found.
Granger’s Honey Ray is the control monger, leading her sisterly troupe into a festival to “save the town” of Fayro, Texas, from economic doom by attracting a new factory-owner to set up shop there.
All four sisters deliver the goods, accents and gestures overblown to a wonderfully comic exaggeration, with English leading the charge as bride-to be Twink.
Koenigsknecht is equally as funny throughout the play, while Goebel plays off a doofus husband with a flurry of deadpan straight lines.
The mythical Fayro is something of a Southern version of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, except here the women are strong, the men are clearly below average and the children are heard but not much seen.
Community theater veteran Winifred Olds plays the elderly Aunt Ivy in a cameo role, during which she gets to make withering comments to each of the sisters and anyone else who crosses her line of vision.
In the end, the town is saved, of course, but not before a Civil War battle is r e - e n a c t e d with inflated balloons on strings taking the place of a brigade of Northerners.
This is dinner theater served up light, lest full stomachs become slumbering souls midway through the play. The show is played for laughs and, yes, the cast gets them.
‘Southern Hospitality’ By Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten Through Oct. 10 Friday & Saturday: Dinner at 6:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Starlight Dinner Theatre, Waverly East Intermediate School, 3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing Dinner & play: $25-$33 Play only: $15 (517) 243-6040 www.starlightdinnertheatre.info