Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Dearly Departed" Now Showing--Drop-Dead Delightful

Why we Americans find family dysfunction amusing is an enigma and the 1991 crazy comedy written by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones now playing at the James F. Dean Theatre banks on that fact. From the moment "mean and surly" Bud Turpin's head thumps the kitchen table to his incurably maladjusted family's final farewells, the laughs are non-stop and you will depart the Flowertown Players latest offering pathetically delighted and neurotically charmed.

With its somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon Line setting, Dearly Departed is a made-for-Summerville play. With the sudden death of their patriarch, the Turpin's are fatefully thrust into one another's company to deal with giving Bud Turpin a decent burial, but with each family member froth with personal problems of their own, the task becomes amusingly complicated.

Raynelle Turpin, who apparently had a love-hate relationship with her husband, wants to put "mean and surly" on the headstone and in a meeting with the frustrated pastor who is seeking to write a virtuous eulogy, she sums up things by saying, "That's because you didn't know him till he was old and sick."

Raybud, the oldest son, concerned about the costs, neurotically thinks the owner of the funeral home handling the burial arrangements might seek revenge on him for a childhood prank and mostly concerned for the cost of each letter, differs with his mother over the wording on the headstone. Junior, the other son, who is teetering on financial ruin and thinks about running over his wife with his big cleaning machine in a K-Mart parking lot, is further embarrassed when she discovers an earring in the backseat of the car while yelling at their out-of-control children on their way to his mother's house.

Then, add to the mix a wooden spoon wielding, Bible thumping, hellfire sister, an unemployed, somewhat philosophical nephew with dreams of getting married so he can go on welfare, Raynelle's seemingly unemotional daughter bent on consuming bags of potato chips and dilly bars for comfort in the chaos and the Turpin's circle of life is complete. In the end, despite themselves, the disinclined family and friends come together to give Bud his final send-off .

That's the whole, incredibly wacky story and its colorful collection of characters, and the challenge of bringing it all to life was masterfully accomplished by the plays able cast. As the candid Raynelle Turpin, matronly Jennifer Gordon's performance will put a chuckle in your smile. Chad Reuer as the daughter Delightful proved that men make the funniest woman and comical can be accomplished in just a few words. Chad Estel and Hannah Weston, fresh off a top notch performance in the highly acclaimed Moonlight and Magnolias, excelled once again as the plays splintered couple, unfaithful Junior and his distraught wife, Suzanne. Alan Rosenfeld as cautious spending Raybud presided over the affair with dignified flair and Jennifer Kliner portrayed Lucille, the character who brought a small dose of sanity into the family despite dealing with a personal crisis of her own, with sensible style. Show-stealer Rhonda Kierpiec judiciously wielded her Bible like her wooden spoon as Marguerite. Rounding out the cast and deserving honorable mention are Barry Gordon(Reverend Hooker), Daniel Rich(Royce), Anne O'Sullivan(Juanita), Robert Venne(Clyde), RaeAnn Estel(Nadine), Sacha Estel(Oprah), Sierra Solders(Norval), and Kerry Bowers(Veda).

Director John Bryan and crew have put together a beautiful set with smooth and easy to follow scene changes accompanied by effective lighting and props.

The Flowertown Players just keep on cranking out the hits. Dearly Departed is the latest addition to its very successful 2015 season. It's a simple story about a small town, southern American family seriously in need of a dose of Xanax--figuratively speaking. Its collection of Mayberry-like characters will leave you rolling in the aisles with laughter and warm your socially dysfunctional hearts. Now showing from March 20-29. Purchase your ticket to this drop-dead delightful play at Flowertown Players.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Summerville Is Set To Fling Its Spring Doors Wide Open For Flowertown Festival 2015

Pack your wallets and put on a sweet tea smile, Summerville will fling its spring doors wide open on March 27-29 for its annual Flowertown Festival. Scheduled to ideally coincide with the yearly azalea bloom, the town's beautiful and historic Azalea Park on South Main Street will be transformed into a maze of tents and booths. It is estimated about 250,000 people from all over the Lowcountry and the Southeast U.S. attend this craft and food fare extravaganza.

Summerville's famous Azalea Park was started in 1933 and completed in 1935. All the flowers planted in the park, 33,000 of them, came from George Segelken's Summerville Floral Nursery. Mr. Segelken was a pioneer in the propagation of azaleas.

Azalea Park on a Sunday in Spring
During its early years, tourists flocked to the park. On any Sunday afternoon in spring, cars lining South Main Street bumper to bumper were a common sight. They not only came for the spectacle of beauty, but also because azaleas were an uncommon sight and relatively unknown in South Carolina, except in Summerville.

A scene in Azalea Park today
The flowers are the official doorkeepers of spring and turn Summerville into a shimmering sea of magnificent masses of magenta and various other colors of the spectrum. Drive anywhere throughout the town's historic district and you will be thoroughly convinced; Summerville is rightfully crowned the "Flower Town in the Pines."

Rightfully the "Flower Town in the Pines" because Summerville is also famous for its pine trees. But unfortunately the pollen bloom that rains down from its branches when the weather warms is not enthusiastically embraced with happy celebration like the azaleas. Having said that, pine trees and azaleas are a perfect collaboration because azaleas grow well in the tree's shadows.

The current festival was predated by a previous festival. In 1941, Summerville celebrated the first Azalea Festival--a four-day event that included dances, concerts, a parade and a formal ball. The festival promoted local business and celebrated the town's community pride--a pride as old as the pines.

With an origin that goes back to 1972, the Flowertown Festival ranks as one of the largest festivals in the Southeast. The three-day affair also carries the well deserved distinction as one of the Top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society. One of the main features of this family-oriented festival centers around the promotion of arts and crafts. More than 200 jury-selected craft artisans and vendors will be given the opportunity to showcase their creative wares throughout Azalea Park.

The Taste of Summerville is another feature that offers festival-goers a chance to sample appetizers, main courses and desserts from local restaurants. A Children’s Jubilee located at the corner of 6th Street and S. Main Street will be set up with activities and rides to entertain your little ones. There will also be plenty of live entertainment. Photographer, Susan Roberts, has been chosen as the artist to represent the Summerville Family YMCA's flagship fundraiser.

The new Kids Fest Blooming Artists, on Saturday, March 28, has been added to the festival. This will be a fun way for boys and girls ages 8-18 to express themselves visually and encourage the creative growth of young people. Blooming Artists will be located directly across from the Farmer's Market on 2nd and Main Street.

What do local residents have to say about the Flowertown Festival?
Carol--"Spring is here...and we see some people that we haven't seen since Fall. Also, means a weekend off."
James--"It means more yard art for us."
Maureen--"Having the opportunity to support small businesses and artists that offer handcrafted items! I have a definite love for handcrafted items, especially soaps - I remember, for a few years running, buying enough to last QUITE a while. Lol. My youngest (now 11) loves to come with me as well, and the $20 I normally give her to spend is quickly and happily put to use."
Vanessa--"Love, love, love it. It's Summerville's time to shine and we always do!"
Megan--"This will be our first! Can't wait!! Yay for Spring!"
As for me, I enjoy the live musical entertainment. It is also a great event to meet new acquaintances and of course, people watch.

It was a cold season in the Lowcountry. As we wave farewell to the winter, we happily welcome the warmer days of spring and embrace its arrival with colorful enthusiasm. The azalea bloom, just getting underway, is setting the stage for the premier event of the year. Come and experience Summerville's southern beauty, charm, and community pride. Come and celebrate the Flowertown Festival March 27th to the 29th. Admission is free and parking is free. Times Friday and Saturday are 9:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday 9:00am to 4:00pm.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Summerville 2015--Springing Into Action At Every Turn Of The Corner

What do you do on the warmest day since late October? Going to Sullivan's Island to catch up on some long overdue beach time was my first capricious thought. Sitting on the wooden deck of RB's along the water's edge of Shem Creek was my second. As the roulette wheel of random options spun around and around in my mind, more predictably appeared. After all, in the Lowcountry, the places are many and the choices are numerous. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the mental pointer whimsically stopped on the idea of taking a leisurely stroll around Summerville to catch up on some of the latest and upcoming additions to the downtown area's growing culinary scene. My spring walk took me to West Richardson and Short Central where the colors of spring painted the dogwoods and a chorus of saws filled the warm air.

Alessandra's has moved to the corner of Short Central and West Richardson. Enclosed with black posts and broad beams, the restaurant has added a large, outdoor patio to its new venue. Reviews for this restaurant are mixed, but many locals consider it a favorite. It was always a great place to enjoy a pizza and people watch on a Third Thursday. One of its highlights was the live piano music.

Summerville is getting its first oyster bar. Shuckin' Shack is moving into the space vacated by Allessandra's. Presently under construction and soon to open, it specializes in fresh steamed and raw seafood (oysters, shrimp, clams, crab legs, mussells). It presently can be found at two locations, both in North Carolina--Carolina Beach and Wilmington. Coastal Living named Shuckin' Shack as one of their 22 favorite seafood dives and it was voted Best Wings at the Carolina Beach location.

The biggest surprise of the day was not so obvious when looking across West Richardson from Short Central towards longtime bar and grill favorite, Montreux. I knew the Montreux was in the process of redoing its outdoor patio, but when I approached the corner of the building and the back space came into view, I was pleasantly blown away. The outdoor venue had been turned into a beautiful piazza with pergola style dividers, stone pavers, strategically located fans for cooling on those steamy nights of summer and a full bar with big screen televisions. It is now open to the public.

Montreux was voted #1 Bar, #1 Happy Hour, #1 Date Spot, and runner-up Best Place for Trivia by locals in the Summerville Journal Scene's 2014 Reader's Choice Awards. How the bar and grill got its name is an interesting read. For the full story you can click on The Story of Montreux.

Summerville is rapidly reclaiming its rightful place among the Lowcountry's premier tourist destinations and 2015 is shaping up to be a pivotal year. With the incorporation of the Lowcountry Loop Trolley in February, Summerville is now directly linked to Charleston and points beyond with the Trolley's Hop On, Hop Off service--reminiscent of its early railroad days when it was the first stop out of Charleston. The ever popular Good Eats on the Sweet Tea Trail Trolley Tours have been scheduled for March, April, and May. The B.I.R.D.S. Project is in place to assist locals and visitors in discovering the downtown area and its history. Sooner than later, Summerville will have its first craft brewery--Oak Road Brewery. Lest we not forget, it is the home of the best monthly party in the Lowcountry known as Third Thursday.

Walk it, ride it, shop it, dine it. At every turn of the corner, the signs of a prospering Summerville are as discernible as the blooming dogwoods of spring 2015. Things are heating up.