by Terrance Mc Arthur
Now, on a night that your wife is being admitted to a hospital and had had a fender-bender on the way, is it a good idea to try to review a comedy where much merriment is made out of where a too-loose glass eye might go?
I needed to laugh that night, and The Red Velvet Cake Wars at the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space gave me lots of opportunities to do it.
It’s a lot like a Texas version of Chekov’s Three Sisters if it was written for Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence on Mama’s Family and played by the Marx Brothers.
LaMerle Verdeen Minshew (Wendy Snyder-Crabtree) thinks the Verdeen cousins have besmirched the name of Verdeen, so she cancels the family reunion. She might have a point. Gaynelle (Jacquie Broach) was recently acquitted after launching her car through the doublewide containing her ex-husband and his girlfriend, but she still has to pass a psychological evaluation or spend time in a mental facility. Jimmie Wyvette (Laura Tromberg) sells Western wear and has never met a dress she was willing to wear. Peaches (Tina Coppock) has been waiting for her trucker hubby to come home for seven years, and she’s starting to get…urges.
The three younger Verdeens decide they will un-cancel the reunion, and do it better than LaMerle, and will bet the house on topping LaMerle’s famous Red Velvet Cake. Things go from peculiar to ridiculous to outrageous at the drop of a glass eye, involving sabotage, flaming batons, cosmetics for corpses, tornados, bad perms, grieving widowers ripe for the plucking, midnight excavations, dogs, and cable-access programming.
Broach starts out as pale and lifeless as any cast member of The Walking Dead, but gains verve and will to live as the situations explode into mayhem around her, grabbing life by the horns and wrestling it in a best-of-three-falls grudge match. Tromberg tromps around in boots and jeans until hope of love makes a woman of her and gives her separate eyebrows. Coppock’s down-to-earth good-old-girl twists into bumps and grinds at the thought of what she hasn’t been getting. Snyder-Crabtree gleefully puts down the efforts of others and becomes the pushy, overbearing relative you love to hate.Brian Rhea is gangly and goofy as a one-eyed salesman of wigs and worms. Shannon Brewington evolves from a repressed and repressing psychologist to a Teutonic sex kitten. Joyce Fitzgerald creates a not-so-handy craft-show host who could still show Martha Stewart a thing or two about life. Gigi Gibbs gets good mileage out of a dim-witted neighbor with a good hammerlock.
This show will not cure cancer. This show will not bring peace to the Middle East. This show will make you laugh. Sometimes, that’s what you need.