Playmasters Keep it Light and Sweet with SEEING STARS IN DIXIE

by Jean Brenner

Bonnie Kapenstein and Kevin Kane in a scene from Playmasters’ SEEING STARS IN DIXIE.

SEEING STARS IN DIXIE is a light, sweet comedy set in 1956 in Natchez, Mississippi. It is ideal fare for community theatre because it is safe and doesn’t ask too much of its audience except that they simply enjoy the story of Clemmie, owner of a tea shop, and her friends.

We never see the oft-mentioned “stars” — Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Cliff – who have landed in this small town to shoot the movie, Raintree County, but we hear a great deal about them from the people who visit Clemmie’s Tea Shop.

Experienced actress, Bonnie Kapenstein, plays the leading role with understanding and believability. Serving tea and toast to a few patrons, Kapenstein slouches around the stage during Act I, demonstrating insecurity and a huge lack of confidence. But her desire to have immortality by being captured forever in film helps her to pursue the possibility of that dream by landing a small role in the movie.

So, she accepts coaching from former beauty queen, Jo Beth, played really well by Jillian Bosman. Jo Beth commands the stage as she fancies herself to be the next weather girl, the position for which she has been training to audition for the local TV station. Feeling very qualified, she offers to teach Clemmie how to walk, dress, and generally prepare for the movie audition. It’s a difficult assignment, but gradually, Jo Beth succeeds in presenting Clemmie in a beautiful Southern ball gown smiling, walking with confidence, and with her hair fixed attractively.

Tootie, who got her name because she passes air without warning, owns the local newspaper. Played with confidence, Lorie Baldwin portrays Tootie as strong, loud, somewhat arrogant, and caring a great deal for Clemmie.  When Clemmie becomes frightened, Tootie provides encouragement, urging her not to give up as preparing for the audition becomes more difficult.

The protagonist, Marjorie, played by Colleen Mackle, pops in and out of the tea room causing trouble, She is unwelcomed by the others because she is self-centered and selfish.  Mackle does a fine job being unlikable.

The only male in the show is Glease, played nicely by Kevin Kane who spends an inordinate amount of time in Clemmie’s Tea Room until his motives are disclosed near the end of the play.

Kevin Kane, Bonnie Kapenstein, Jillian Bossman and Laurie Baldwin in a scene from SEEING STARS IN DIXIE.

Director Fran Kane showed wisdom in casting the five actors for SEEING STARS IN DIXIE. She needed a woman who could transform herself on stage from being quite shy with no self-confidence to a strong resolute person ready to tackle challenges she could have only dreamed about before.  She got that woman in Bonnie Kapenstein. I’ve seen Kapenstein’s excellent work in several plays; this role gave her an opportunity for some real character development.

Kane needed three other women who could develop needed caricatures and she found them. She needed a man who could look gentle with believability.  She got that from the man who is her husband offstage, falling for the leading lady while on.

Furthermore, the costumes, provided by the cast, were extreme and fun. The set was simple but sufficient. Lighting and sound were minimal, but acceptable.

The Playmasters Theatre is a really nice air-conditioned space located in Neshaminy State Park. Seats are comfortable. Ticket prices are low. only $10 per show or $25 for the season of 4 plays.

By Ron Osborne
Directed by Frank Kane
September 14 – 30, 2012
Playmasters Theatre Workshop
State Rd., east of Street Rd.
Bensalem, PA 19020

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