Quirky comedy offers Southern humor this weekend

Published 10:13 am Friday, April 28, 2017

Come for the Southern dining; stay for the Southern-fried comedy — Act 1 Scene 1 Theatre Co. is bringing another play to life.

“Rex’s Exes” will be the company’s latest presentation, and it focuses on three cousins living in the fictional town of Sweetgum, Texas.

“There’s three main things going on,” Craig Bertrand, director, said. “One cousin is having her 50th birthday; another one has a husband she had declared dead because he never returned home; and the other cousin is opening a new business.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

However, it wouldn’t be a comedy without conflict; and, as Bertrand added, it wouldn’t be a Southern comedy without some interfamilial hilarity.

“Rex is the husband who disappeared; he shows back up. And all three cousins had dated him at one point. One is married to him,” Bertrand said. “They never let him go. They’re all still in love with Rex.”

With a premise ripe for comedic play, Bertrand said the theatre troupe had been wanting to do the show for several years.

“The writers (Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten) come up with the craziest names for businesses,” Bertrand said. “Travis Ponder owns a ‘Tire & Bible Shop’ and there’s a cable access show (in it) that gives out free Southern advice.”

For Bertrand, the appeal of shows like “Rex’s Exes” was the humor and what it could elicit in audiences.

“It’s rewarding to see it come together,” Bertrand said. “And during the performance to hear the people laugh…

“Hearing their laughter is an amazing thing. If the audience is enjoying it that much, then it is instant gratification for us.”

Bertrand also gave the time-honored recommendation of, “If you see something you want to laugh at, don’t hold back.”

For community theatre to be successful, volunteering is a must. According to Bertrand, the actors involved in the Port Arthur play come from as far abroad as Beaumont, Orange and Kingwood.

Patricia Murdock is the Kingwood resident who plays one of the three leads, Gaynelle Verdeen.

“She’s turning 50 and she’s not happy about it,” Murdock said of her character. “Her cousins will be trying to surprise her with a birthday party and she’ll be trying to avoid it.”

Kristi Guilbeaux (left) as CeeCee Windam and Patricia Murdock as Gaynelle Verdeen discuss the pitfalls of turning 50. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

For Murdock, it was the humor that brought her to the role and to the self-labeled “Southern-fried comedy.”

“I love all (Jamie) Wooten comedies,” Murdock said. “And I love wearing the costumes and looking weird. It’s hilariously funny.”

Murdock also brought attention to her Southern accent, which she said was natural and a result of her upbringing in Port Arthur.

“I don’t have to fake a Southern accent; mine is real.”

She also said that plays like “Rex’s Exes” do poke fun at the Southern lifestyle, but do it in a way that’s funny and not mean-spirited.

Angel Suitt plays the role of cousin Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen; and for her, it was an opportunity to get back on stage and experience her first Wooten comedy.

“I wanted to be on the stage again,” Suitt said. “I hadn’t been on since last summer and I love working with Craig.”

Still, Suitt admitted that the comedy particular to “Rex’s Exes” took some getting used to, technically speaking.

“It’s very different from some other comedies,” Suitt said. “The characters talk in paragraphs, not lines; and, so, you have to memorize a lot when it comes to rehearsals.”

For some actors, they’ve been memorizing lines and delivering performances since they were little.

Dana Howard, who plays the third Verdeen cousin, Peaches Verdeen Belrose, said she has been acting since she could talk — and singing and dancing and performing, to boot.

“I’ve been acting since I came out of the womb,” Howard said with a laugh. “I had just finished doing the musical, ‘I Do! I Do!’ and realized I hadn’t done a (regular) show in four years.”

Howard said she has a lot of fun with the play and cast, and mentioned that “Peaches” was a fun character in particular.

Dana Howard (left) as Peaches Verdeen Belrose and Angel Suitt as Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen talk about Jimmie’s plus-size dress business “Wide Bride Boutique.” (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

“It’s relating a story between cousins,” Howard said. “Just the way story is down here.”

She characterized the cousins’ relationship as “painfully close” and fun to watch.

Act 1 Scene 1 Theatre Co. is presenting the Southern-infused comedy “Rex’s Exes” through the weekends of April 28-30 and May 5-7 at First Christian Church on 5856 9th Ave. in Port Arthur.

The Friday and Saturday shows are $25 and will be held at 6:30 p.m. with a dinner of chicken and dumplings. The Sunday shows are $15 and will be held at 2:30 p.m. with a dessert of red velvet cake. Refreshments will be served as well.

For reservations, call 409-790-6782.