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Stage Reviews : 'Jimmy Dean'

May 02, 1986|Cathy De Mayo

"Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean" at the La Habra Depot Playhouse is an intriguing theatrical suitcase stuffed with small-town secrets and spilling over with well-crafted performances under the deft direction of Barbara Covington.

Robert Sessions' nostalgic set design creates an old-fashioned dime store in all its cluttered glory, immediately conjuring up a hot, dry September day in Texas as six friends gather for the 20th reunion of their James Dean fan club. Two have remained in their tiny hometown, drying up with the town's economy, while the others left and never looked back until their reunion calls up some past-due emotional warrants. The play alternates between present and past, as flashbacks reveal the tangled roots of their relationships.

Playwright Ed Graczyk has provided complex characters, and Covington's cast renders them in telling detail. Wendy Warren's compelling portrayal of the troubled Mona, paired with Karen Angela's fine work as the teen-age Mona, provides a solid center to this character drama, revealing the emotional fire that sets Mona apart and eventually consumes her. Teresa Hanrahan makes the village good-time girl, Sissy, likable and ultimately dignified, convincingly creating the woman who has spent a lifetime slinging hash and deferring her dreams. Wendolin Bergren portrays the teen-age Sissy as congenially bubble-headed, living for today in a town where today is pretty much like tomorrow and the day after and the day after.

Joanne Schultz is icily aloof as the friend no one can quite place, adopting the stiff body language of someone who intends to stay at arm's length, but Schultz never unleashes the torment (nor the irresistible temptation) behind her decision to confront her old friends. Kathleen Griffin is a hoot, as her character would put it, as the nouveau riche loudmouth, Stella May, who returns home to waggle a few diamonds under her old friends' noses; and Wendy Robinson projects a quiet dignity as the shy Edna Louise, the one who finally gives Stella May her comeuppance.

The double roles are tricky, but Covington has cast with a careful eye to physical resemblance, which helps immensely, as do the visual clues in Phil Allen's lighting design.

"Jimmy Dean" will play through May 10 at the La Habra Depot Playhouse, 311 S. Euclid St., La Habra. For information, call (213) 694-1011, Ext. 271.

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