“Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will,” the last community play for this season, opens today at the Liberty Center Association for the Arts in downtown Sedalia, with great character development of a comical and sometimes dark dysfunctional family looking to find their father’s will after he sufferers multiple strokes.
It is directed by Ashley Cook, of Sedalia, who co-directed “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last year.
“This is the first time to direct by myself,” Cook said. “It’s been lots of fun and a learning experience.”
The play is set in a small-town Texas farmhouse in 1986. The family has been called in because daddy’s dying.
“The show is about a family that hasn’t seen each other for awhile,” Cook said. “They all get together to help their dad because he suffered multiple strokes so they were just helping him until he passed.”
During the course of the show the family members, all full of quirks and idiosyncrasies, try to work out their problems and differences.
“Each character is very different,” Cook said. “We have Lurlene Turnover, she is a preacher’s wife, she’s very conservative. She is the eldest of the siblings so she is always trying to make them all get along.”
In contrast with Lurlene’s character is the youngest of the four siblings, Evalita Turnover, played by Anne Townson, of Smithton, who’s been married five times and divorced and is now living with her hippie boyfriend Harmony Rhodes, played by Maro Infante, also of Sedalia. Jessica Jones plays Lurlene.
“I’m the rebel of the family,” Townson said. “I’ve been six times engaged and five times divorced. They pretty much talk about her the whole time, like the brother and sisters are almost scared of her. She’s the one who drinks beer, and smokes. Orvil, my brother, and myself have been waiting for dad to die so we can collect on his estate. So we come home to find the will.”
At one point in the play Evalita yells,”I cuss, I cheat, I steal the ash trays out of the motel, but I live!”
Orvil Turnover, the brother, played by Tony Caldwell, of Sedalia, is a real case. He drinks too much, is verbally abusive to his wife and generally hates life.
“He has a short fuse,” Cook added.
Roxanne Griggs plays Marlene, Orvil’s wife, who lost a lot of weight and now has new found confidence.
“That makes her feisty,” Cook said. “She’s trying to grab attention, because she’s always been kind of ignored and pushed around.”
Character Sara Lee Turnover, played by Rebecca Wagner-Smith, of Sedalia, has sacrificed her life to take care of her father. She feared she would become an old maid, but has recently become engaged.
In the first act she says, “Daddy’s comin’ home from the hospital today and everybody’s coming to watch him die.”
Nancy L. Embry, of Sedalia, plays Buford’s colorful and animated mother-in-law, Mama Wheelis.
Daddy, or Buford Turnover, is played by Mark Hibbard, of Sedalia.
“Buford is a strong and forceful personality,” Hibbard said. “Who’s made a fortune through hard work, when he suffers a stroke and is suffering dementia as a result of that. And he’s still trying to function, but he’s confused and his mind is going back in time. He gets both his mother-in-law and oldest daughter confused with his wife. And he’s still talking with her even though she’s dead. He’s offering work construction when there’s no work going on and watching TV that isn’t there.”
Hibbard wouldn’t provide any spoilers but did say the Buford does regain a little clarity as the play progresses.
“He spends the play dying colorfully and we’ll let the audience come see if he dies or not, but death isn’t going to take me easy,” Hibbard said. “All the relatives love him but it does occur to them that he is wealthy. They’re all hoping to get a piece of the pie so to speak.”
Buford also changed his will because he realized he made a mistake, but now can’t remember where he put it.
“Some of the characters, who are the greedy ones, they spend the show trying to find the will,” Cook said. “They tear apart the house looking for the will.”
“And his mother-in-law, Mama Wheelis, she also forgot where it is,” Hibbard said.
The actors each lend themselves to convincing the audience that they live in the era, in small-town Texas, creating a chemistry that is both hilarious and tumultuous.
Cook said she has enjoyed working with this play and said she will definitely direct again.
“I’ve had a good experience and I like being on this side,” she said. “I like it on the other side too, I’ve acted. I like both, but I think I like directing better. But it just gives you a pride. You’re so proud of the actors because you’ve seen them start from the beginning, and you’ve seen them work so hard. And it pays off, it makes you really proud.”
There is a language advisory; the play isn’t for small children.
“Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will” opens today at 7:30 p.m. and will begin at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at LCAA, 111 W. Fifth St., Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by calling 827-3228, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the box office before the show begins.