by Corey Ralston
To celebrate their 50th Anniversary season, The Kings Players in Hanford have decided to take a trip back to where it all began and produce the very first show that was ever performed by the players in 1963, Everybody Loves Opal, by John Patrick.
Directed by stage veteran Wyleen Luoma, the show follows a simple woman named Opal Kronkie (played by Debbie Walker) who is a bit of a recluse. Opal lives in a rundown mansion with her cat Mr. Tanner. She doesn’t have much but is willing to share with friends whom she holds near to her heart.
When three criminals come into Opal’s life, she is conned into thinking they are friends when really all they want is to see her dead so they can cash in an insurance policy they bought on her life. The criminals, in their varying level of deviousness, are lead by Professor Bradford Winter (played by Henry Gonzales). Professor Winter has fallen far from his glory days as a college professor. He has hit rock bottom and is forced to sell bootleg perfume with his two counterparts. Gloria Gulock (played by Sadie Serrano) uses her feminine wiles and sweet exterior to play people and is the one who finds Opal as the trio’s next target. Then there is Solomon Bozo (played by Sandy Brown) who is every bit as dumb as his last name infers. He is often told what to do and not to ask questions and his previous 40-something arrests shows that he isn’t the brightest of miscreants.
The hilarity of the play comes from everyone’s interaction with Opal, the bleeding heart. The woman has utter faith in humanity even though she has not had the easiest life. Debbie Walker executes the role from the outside in. She at first appears to embrace Opal’s battiness full on but through each scene you see the depth she has found in this character as she deals with the people in her life that mean her harm with a huge heart and open arms. Walker’s long resume and years of stage experience has led her to this moment where she could take a seemingly silly character and give her the humanity that is written in the sub-text of the play.
Each of the three antagonists were played with great intent and polished comic chops. Gonzales, in his most vile character yet, handles the snooty, intelligent dialogue of Professor Winter with ease. He roots himself deep into the nastiness of this villain and doesn’t let go. Gonzales always has a knack for disappearing completely into the skin of a character and this was no exception. The audience absolutely loved to hate him.
On the other hand Brown looked like he was having a ball playing the scummy-not-so-bright Sol Bozo. He used a somewhat ridiculous Jersey accent that added to his character’s dumbly nature. You can tell that comedy is where Brown is comfortable and has no problem milking the audience for more laughs.
Newcomer to the Temple Theater stage, Sadie Serrano, showed immense potential with her portrayal of the criminal with a good side Gloria Gulock. What I liked best about Serrano was her voice that carried through the audience and stung the ears with each line. She knows how to go “big” with her character and uses her face to further her funny lines. She was a breath of fresh air and a welcomed addition to the player’s talent pool.
Other notable performances go to Earnest Roberts as the typical small town cop, who is- Surprise – dimwitted yet lovable. David Beeman stole his scene as the insurance doctor that checks out Opal’s health. Beeman knows how to use his face and piercing blue eyes to get a laugh and put out all the stops to make a splash in this production.
The set was rich in detail and frankly amazing for the size of the stage. It looked wonderfully cluttered and dirty and has some surprise special effects that I had no idea the Temple Theater stage was capable of doing.
Luoma’s direction was decisive and polished. She fine-tuned the play to heighten its comic ability and left the audience putty in her hands with the amount of heart that showed through. Luoma loves comedy and it shows, she has found her niche and needs to never leave.
I highly recommend heading over to Hanford to not only see history in the making with the Theater’s 50th season, but to also have an enjoyable night filled with laughter and a little pull at your heart strings.
Everybody Loves Opal runs until Sunday, March 31, 2013. Tickets are $12 for regular seats and $10 for seniors, students and military. There is no charge for members of the military in uniform. Credit cards are accepted and reservations are strongly recommended: Call (559) 584-7241.