Sunday, November 21, 2021

For A Bit of Twisted Holiday Cheer, “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls” Might be Your Cup of Merriment.

The cast and director, Phil Johnson of Roustabout Theatre Compny and Christopher Durang seem to have a symbiotic relationship in Roustabout’s treatment of its current production “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” now at Moxie Theatre through Dec. 4th. 

I say that with tongue in cheek, because, well they all seem to be savoring every tasty morsel of dark humor where Durang spoofs the four or so little playlets with glee, the most polished is the parody on  Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie”. 

The four cast members Wendy Maples, Walter Murray, Omri Schein and Wendy Waddell are all plugged into Durang’s warped humor rapid fire conversation and for ninety crazy minutes, you will laugh yourself silly. Lest we forget, director Johnson can be just as goofy as the rest especially if you remember him with Schein in “Withering Heights” and “She Rantala from Outer Space”. 

l to r Wendey Wadell, Omri Schein, Wendy Maples and Walter Murray

In the first skit married couple Marsha and Jim (Waddell and Murray) are locked into a 13 year ho hum marriage with littler or nothing to talk about when Murray gets a phone call from a long ago high school girlfriend. She wans to come out and visit and ‘talk’ about old times. When she arrives, he’s baffled because he barely recognizes her (she’s gained lots of weight and has had several surgeries on her face) and doesn’t remember ever being close to her. 

Maples is all over Murray with not very convincing push backfrom him much to Waddell’s chagrin. Of the trio, Maples shines as Waddell moans and groans perfectly as the injured wife and Murray frowns and looks surprised loving the attention.

Schein makes several appearances on stage, one as a waiter in a Tea Room annoyed at Murray for not liking borscht but ordering scrambled eggs instead.  In another he plays a writer who is approached by an agent (Maples) to write a play about a Rabbi who wants to marry a priest played by Waddell. That was too funny but Renetta Lloyd’ and Roz Lehman’s costumes of the Orthodox Rabbi stole that segment. 

Omri Schein, Wendy Maples, Wendy Waddell and Walter Murray  as Tom.

The most developed and black as black comedy can get is the takeoff on Williams’ “Glass Menagerie” where Schein is now Lawrence not Laura. Amanda (Waddell) calls him a cripple. Instead of her/his menagerie of animals, Lawrence plays with his cocktail swizzles. He calls them by name driving his mother crazy with his potpourri of illnesses and his refusal to meet anyone.

Murray plays Tom Lawrence’s brother who at Amanda’s urging brings home a lady caller named Ginny (Maples looking like Rosie the Riveter) for Lawrence.  She turns out to be a lesbian. And then Tom the breadwinner goes to the movies every night and brings home his own gentlemen. 

It’s all so…loud as Ginny (Maples almost screams her lines because she’s hard of hearing.  At the end of that segment yours truly was ready to give her my hearing aids. And through it all, Waddell’s Amanda is still the ‘charming’ southern bell who once had seventeen gentlemen callers in one day. But if looks could kill both her children would be dead. 

Omri Schein, Walter Murray Wendy Waddell and Wendy Maples

With an all talented cast and Johnson directing, the laughs came so fast we were barely able to catch our breaths. And for a seasonal show NOT about Christmas this one fits the bill taking our minds off the holidays and the worlds woes for at least ninety fun filled minutes.

Alyssa Kane’s simple set worked well as the quick scenes kept everything moving at rapid speed and Chloe Oliana M. Clark’s lighting is right on.

In case you are interested in any of Durang’s plays try reading or seeing if possible, “Beyond Therapy”, “Sister Mary Explains It All” and “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike”, the last was seen here at the Old Globe some years ago. 


“For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” plays November 20, 21, 23, 27, 28 and Dec. 2-4 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. 

Talkbacks will be held after the Nov. 21 and 28 matinees.

For tickets:

Photos: Roustabouts Theatre Company

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and masks required.

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