“The Red Velvet Cake War” Is a Real Knee-Slapper

"The Red Velvet Cake War" by Jones, Hope, and Wooten closes April 23rd
"The Red Velvet Cake War" by Jones, Hope, and Wooten closes April 23rd

"The Red Velvet Cake War" by Jones, Hope, and Wooten closes April 23rd
"The Red Velvet Cake War" by Jones, Hope, and Wooten closes April 23rd

The Towne Players’ North Carolina premiere of The Red Velvet Cake War, an uproarious Southern-fried comedy by Tarheel comic dramatists Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, is a real knee-slapper. A veteran community-theater cast, headed by the irrepressible Frances Stanley as the self-righteous town busybody LaMerle Verdeen Minshew, milk belly-laughs by the gallon from this sassy script and perform every piece of monkey business with infectious high spirits.

Stanley is a pistol as Aunt LaMerle, the Verdeen clan’s insufferable sharp-tongued matriarch who has raised meddling in family business to an art form. Jack Chapman’s genial impersonation of good-natured, oxygen-dependent 80-something family patriarch Aubrey Verdeen is another winner. Indeed, Chapman’s laidback Aubrey is the perfect foil for Stanley’s fussing and fuming LaMerle.

Sharon Pearce is a pip as 40ish Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen, who has anger-management problems. When the curtain rises on The Red Velvet Cake War, Gaynelle is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown who has just crashed her minivan into her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s girlfriend’s doublewide.

Marsha Pressley and Kelly Stansell are cute as Gaynelle’s cousins and fellow organizers of the imminent Verdeen family reunion, the saucy Peaches Verdeen Belrose and the rough-and-ready tomboy Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen, respectively. Peaches is the number-one mortuarial cosmetologist in the tricounty area, and Jimmie Wyvette is a unibrowed good ol’ girl who manages Whatley’s Western Wear.

Megan Kirkpatrick and Linda Brochin put plenty of pizzazz into their portrayals of Gaynelle’s priss-pot neighbor Bitsy Hargis and Cee Cee Windham, the chirpy hostess of the community-television show “Hospitality House,” respectively. Tim Stancil is amusing as one-eyed card-carrying Texas eccentric Newt Blaylock, and Alan Williford contributes a menacing cameo as Sweetgum, Texas’ king of mean, mirrored-sunglasses-wearing bully-with-a-badge Sheriff Grover Lout.

Ethel Webster as Gaynelle’s skeptical court-appointed psychologist Elsa Dowdall; Wanda Nicholson as Bitsy Hargis’ hot-to-trot mother, Mama Doll; and Scott Renz as dead-relative snapping amateur photographer Purvis Verdeen also help Towne Players’ artistic director Beth Honeycutt whip The Red Velvet Cake War into a tasty comic soufflé.

Towne Players’ technical director Scott Honeycutt and his director-wife and fellow production designer, Beth, fill the refurbished Garner Historic Auditorium stage with a realistic set that is, perhaps, a little too wide for some of the show’s more intimate moments; but works quite well when the cast builds up comic momentum and needs doors to slam as they run around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to save the ill-fated Verdeen family reunion from becoming the epic disaster that squinty-eyed Aunt LaMerle keeps predicting that it will be.

SECOND OPINION: April 10th Garner-Clayton Record preview by Sarah Nagem: http://www.garnerclayton.com/2011/04/10/6424/comedy-up-next-on-garner-stage.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the April 14th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/04/towne-players-present-the-n-c-premiere-of-the-red-velvet-cake-war-by-jones-hope-and-wooten/.)

The Towne Players present THE RED VELVET CAKE WAR at 8 p.m. April 22 and 2 and 8 p.m. April 23 in Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 W. Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina 27529.

TICKETS: $12 ($10 students and seniors 55+).

BOX OFFICE: Tickets will be sold at the door.

INFORMATION: 919/779-6144 or http://www.towneplayers.org/pages/TickConts.shtml.

SHOW: http://www.towneplayers.org/performances/current-season/.

PRESENTER: http://www.towneplayers.org/.

VENUE: http://www.garnernc.gov/.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.towneplayers.org/contact/directions-to-garner-historic-auditorium/.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://www.joneshopewooten.com/redvelvetcake.html (official website).

The Playwrights: http://www.joneshopewooten.com/index.html (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jones_Hope_Wooten_(Playwrights) (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).