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Baggage Handlers: The cast of Mountain Community Theater's 'Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean' delivers a powerful emotional performance.

Soul Food

Local theater gets real with a look at lifetimes of emotional baggage--and silly with a sendup of urban egotists

By Rob Pratt

ED GRACZYK'S NOW CLASSIC Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean has all the elements of a Tennessee Williams psychological thriller. Dealing with family secrets, alcoholism, sickness--and, of course, oppressive Southern heat--the show demands a subtle touch from a director and cast lest the drama swing from superficial period piece to weepy episode of Montel Williams. The talented cast of Mountain Community Theater's production, running through April 15, beautifully and gracefully unfolds the play, building the 20-year reunion of a group of women who as schoolgirls belonged to the "Disciples of James Dean" into a soaring statement about the restlessness of youth, the ravages of time and the power of honesty to bring people together.

Diane McCorkle as Juanita (who hosts the event at the five and dime store she has tended for decades) has a voice of reassurance, a drawl and a motherly air that, despite her smiles and steadfast faith in God, suggest all is not well in the little town of McCarthy, Texas. It's McCorkle's Juanita with Julia Kapp as Sissy and Lori Meyer as Mona who give the play an emotional center and a simmering burn--all strong, believable performances that move their characters beat-by-beat toward a climatic catharsis. Also good are Laura Hagen as young Sissy and Akwia Diane Knipe, who has the difficult task of playing the only character without emotional baggage.

Biting 'Food'

THEATER CERTAINLY KNOWS that self-centeredness isn't a new phenomenon--witness such classic self-obsessed buffoons as Shakespeare's Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Nicky Silver's The Food Chain, in a Pisces Moon production at the Broadway Playhouse, takes egotistical clowns to the extreme, populating an entire play with nothing but.

Set somewhere in uptown New York, The Food Chain takes a look at coupling--or, rather, de-coupling. And despite the comic possibilities, the play presents actors a huge challenge. None of Silver's conceited, compulsive and overly neurotic figures are all that sympathetic (or, for that matter, all that finely rendered in the script), which means that players have to zing the audience with well-timed laughs to keep the plot from sagging into irrelevance or meaninglessness--a task that this cast accomplishes with mixed results.

Struggling to add some emotional range to Silver's biting sendup, Kristen Vaughan as Amanda pulls her character's comic punch by overplaying mood swings in the first act. Always-funny local actor Randy Birch (fat-suited for this role) pole-vaults this pitfall in the second act by ditching emotional concerns and playing Otto completely for laughs. The rest of the cast only gets clicking with the humor of Silver's farce in the final act, especially when Vaughan and Chris Sugarman (as fashion model Serge) hit a groove as their characters square off for the love of a man.


Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm at Park Hall, 9300 Mill St, Ben Lomond, through April 15. Tickets are $12 general, $10 seniors, $7 children. (336.4777)

The Food Chain runs Thursdays at 7pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm at the Broadway Playhouse, 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz, through April 15. Tickets are $10. (460.9276)


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From the March 29-April 5, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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