Big Dawg Productions is selling out practically every run of any show they produce nowadays. It’s a trend going strong for well over a year. Part of their appeal has come from a willingness to produce shows of local and regional substance, like “Fort Fisher Hermit” or any show by the writers Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. The trifecta of writers pen Southern comedies—“Dixie Swim Club,” “The Hallelujah Girls” and “Dearly Departed”—that have zeal and quirk, compounded by heart, which leaves audiences in the Cape Fear Playhouse roaring in laughter. “Dearly Beloved,” another story by Jones Hope Wooten, is steeped in Southern flair and will open this weekend. Unlike its 2014 predecessor, “Dearly Departed,” which followed a family dealing with the death of their patriarch, “Dearly Beloved”sees a Texas family’s daughter off into wedded bliss.
Randy Davis, who acted in “Dearly Departed” last year, will be filling the role as director this go ‘round. Davis fell in love with theatre in the third grade and went on to study it at Appalachian State. Though he lived in Wilmington at the beginning of the century, and did numerous shows with BUMP, Comically Impaired and Opera House, he went on to work in carpentry for the Oprah Winfrey Show and the OWN Network. He even won a daytime Emmy during his time at the Winfrey enterprise. He returned to Wilmington two years ago and now takes up a seat on the board of directors at Big Dawg.
“[Jones Hope Wooten] have written numerous comedy trilogies together, as well as television for USA, WB, UPN, Syfy, Nickelodeon, and Fox,” Davis says. “They specialize in family relationships of all forms and the unnerving way family makes us both love and hate them sometimes. Both plays center on a family going through a high-stress situation that would make Job and Clark Griswold feel right at home.”
We spoke more with Davis about “Dearly Beloved,” which opens Thursday and runs for the next three weekends at Cape Fear Playhouse.
encore: What else have you directed locally?
Randy Davis: I have directed shows both here in Wilmington and abroad. My local credits include “Talk Radio” for BUMP and “The Complete History of America (abridged)” for Big Dawg’s touring series.
e: What makes “Dearly Departed” and “Dearly Beloved” different other than the obvious: one’s a funeral, the other’s a wedding?
RD: “Dearly Beloved,” and the rest of the Futrelle sister trilogy, has more heart in it than “Dearly Departed.” All the off-the-wall characters in ridiculous situations are still there, they are just more three-dimensional.
e: Give me the basic premise of the plot and tell me a little about the characters and their dynamic.
RD: The play centers around the three Futrelle sisters, who sang together as the Sermonettes 20 years ago before a large falling out. The youngest sister, Frankie, is preparing to marry one of her twin daughters to the son of Patsy Price, the high society of Fayro, Texas. Frankie, along with her two sisters, husband, other daughter, and a cast of oddballs have to band together of make this wedding happen.
The trilogy continues in “Christmas Belles,” which we are producing in December. Nine of the 11 cast members come back as the family teams up once again. This time to pull off the local Christmas pageant. We will finish the trilogy next season with Southern Hospitality.
e: Who is playing whom? How are they impressing you most in their roles?
RD: Jenny Wright is playing Honey Raye, the elder estranged Futrelle sister. Jenny is mostly known for musicals, but she is absolutely cracking everyone up as the five-time divorced cougar. Real-life couple Terrie Batson and Charles Auten are playing wedding-obsessed sister, Twink Futrelle, and her boyfriend, Wiley. Long-time Comically Impaired buddies Melissa Stanley and Steve Rassin play the parents of the bride. Sarah Burns and Hal Cosec have known each other from growing up in Wilmington theatre and play the younger couple in the show. It has been really interesting to see these three couples pull from their long-standing relationships to create their characters.
Deb Bowen, Suzanne Nystrom, Rhoda Gary, and Charles Calhoun fill out the cast of kooks.
e: What can we expect of set design … trailer-park regalia? Who’s helping you and what are some of the best props?
RD: Most of the play takes place in the reception hall at the Tabernacle of Lamb church. Other locations in town are portrayed in pools of light with various furniture.
We have a ton of tupperware for a potluck, alot of which gets sampled throughout the night, an extremely short choir robe, the world’s toughest turkey, and knives, guns, spatulas, etc.
e: Who’s doing costuming, make up, lighting, techie stuff?
RD: Debbie Scheu has provided us with the dresses for the “Gone with the Wind” themed wedding, as well as some other gaudy get-ups. The ladies of the show are very excited to do their own hair and make up for this redneck extravaganza. Nick Fenner is designing lights. Heather Dodd is our stage manager and cake decorator.
Cape Fear Playhouse, 613 Castle St.
Thurs. – Sun., 2/5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 8 p.m.; Sun. matinee, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $16-$22 • (910) 367-5237