Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Come Back to The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean"

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entire contents copyright 2000 by Tony Annicone

"Come Back to The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean"

Tony Annicone

The latest production of Theatre Co. is "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". It is 1975 and the Disciples of James Dean meet for their 20th reunion at the Kressmont 5 & dime store owned by religious fanatic, Juanita (Maureen Noel) in the small town of McCarthy, Texas.The middle-aged women were teenagers in 1955 when James Dean filmed Giant nearby. Mona (Jackie Granja), an extra in the film has a child she claims was conceived by Dean on the set; her child is the Jimmy Dean of the title. Mona and Sissy (Tray Gearing), her best friend have their reminiscences mingle with flashbacks to their youth (Kelly Ann Maurice as Mona,then and Shannon Vescera as Sissy, then) with a ghostly spector, Joe (Adam Guindon) haunting the 1975 Mona. The arrival of an unrecognized woman (Hilary Rogers) sets off a series of confrontations that reveal the truth behind the wom! en's deceptions throughout the years and shows their hidden disappointments. Throw in the loud and boisterous, Stella (JoAnn Bromley) and the very pregnant and dimwitted, Edna (Heather Chapman) as the other Disciples and you have a sparkling gem of a show with the right mixture of humor and pathos directed by Donnameg DePasquale with a keen insight into all nine characters. Donnameg casts each role perfectly. The double cast roles especially standout in ' 55 and ' 75. The mannerisms and characterizations of both sets of performers is amazing. The set resembles an old fashioned 5 & Dime with the Orange Crush on tap, the ceiling fan, and the linoleum floor and the shrine and decorations to James Dean add to the authenticity of the set. Donnameg has all the comic and dramatic moments blend into the laughing one minute and crying the next perfectly. Wonderful job with an extemely difficult show that includes very adult subject matter about sex change, breast cancer and sodomy but all are handled very well in their presentation to the audience.

Maureen Noel plays the very religious character of Juanita who really has been covering up for her dead husband's transgressions for years. She plays this Southern fanatic with a great deal of power bossing the girls around in the past and present and does a great job with this dramatic part delivering a monologue at the beginning of the show. Maureen show she is capable of delivering the goods when she has funny lines, too. Great job from this veteran actress.

Jackie Granja plays Mona like Blanche from "Streetcar" and Scarlett from "Gone with the Wind". Her southern belle is delusional about who fathered her son and even about his mental capabilities. Her will of the wisp quality is excellently portrayed and you feel sorry for her plight while wanting to shake her to make her accept the truth. Her constant frenetic behavior fits the character to a tee. The young Mona is played with youthful energy and innocence by Kelly Ann Maurice. She is a powerful actress who can handle the comic and pathetic parts of this role. Kelly plays the later dementia beautifully. Her fantasy about James Dean and her betrayal of the baby's real father, Joe is well played.Great performances by both Monas. (The 50's flashbacks are made known to the audience by the use of the broken fan and the 50's music and costumes.)

The two actresses playing Sissy match the acting prowess of their counterparts.Tray Gearing, a statuesque red-head as Sissy plays the big boobed bimbo party girl who is hiding a very tragic secret that is revealed by the mystery person. The revelation of her breast cancer is very emotional and handled beautifully. Tray also handles the many humorous lines with the same aplomb. Her miniskirt and her hairdo also add to the Delta Burke style of comedy.Shannon Vescera brings the young Sissyto life as the busty girl who wants to have fun. She adds the needed humor to the flashback scenes when things get heavy. Her crawling on the counter to describe her sex in the graveyard is truly comical. Great job, girls.

The most difficult roles in the show are of the boy who has become a woman 20 years later. The sex change aspect of the character is very tricky and can make the audience like or hate what it sees. In this case, both performers make this character work. You find out Joe has been raped by some school boys because they think he is gay which makes the audience feel badly for him gaining the Joanne character the sympathy from the audience. Hilary Rogers as Joanne and Adam Guindon as Joe have similar facial features which makes you believe it is him 20 years later. Hilary plays Joanne the keeper of all the secrets very well. She is determined to reveal the truth in life she has faced after all these years. Hilary shows her character's strength to the others on how to live life by revealing their secrets and finally discovering the proof she is the young Jimmy's father in the end. She forgives Mona and make! s it a believable transition. Adam Guindon as Joe appears first as the spirit of the past haunting Mona. His dramatic entrance covered in blood is superb as is the revealation of the rape. His dramatic delivery of the moving dialogue is excellent leaving the audience in tears. Adam plays the final confrontation with Mona is just as moving by telling her he will never forgive her when you find out he does 20 years later. A very pivotal role in the show handled expertly by this young man.

Rounding out this talented cast in their comic roles are JoAnn Bromley as the laughing, meanspirited Stella and Heather Chapman as the sympathetic dumb pregnant Edna. Both women show their strong comic timing in these two roles. You find out the rich Stella isn't as happy as she seems but the slower witted Edna is happy with both her husband and her six children. JoAnn and Heather make these women the comic relief of the show when it gets too heavy. Great work.

Kudos to everyone who worked on this outstanding show. A word of praise to producer/artistic director, Donna Adamonis stage manager, Angela Fayerweather and everyone who moved the group into their new home at the Pawtuxet Valley Center for the Performing Arts. Have a successful run in your new home.

"Come Back to The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (till 16 December)
/ The Pawtuxet Valley Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Harris Avenue, COVENTRY, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 827-0091

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide