Pull up over the gravel, park in the grass, and experience something more humble. It might give you some fresh perspective.
‘Til Beth Do Us Part: a Marital Confection by Jones Hope Wooten was put on by Arts!Oglethorpe in Crawford, Georgia from Oct. 18-21. It was a small show from a tiny company who performed in the ballroom of an old, run-down schoolhouse. The room itself reminded me of the antebellum, old-but-homey downtown districts I wandered through with my mother as a child.
‘Till Beth Do Us Part is a show geared towards older audiences. That being said, it can be enjoyed by anyone – I was one of about five people under the age of 40 in the crowd. It’s got some corny, way-too-obvious jokes, but the five-person hometown cast is so adorable that you don’t care. Sure, it’s not Broadway-level talent, but it’s a fun, entertaining show that warms the heart.
The story follows a Cincinnati couple in crisis. Wife Suzannah (played by Shirley Brumbaugh Dillard) is waist-deep in her job and the housework, and what a shocker, her husband Gibby (played by Ed Smith) does nothing more than create the messes she’s constantly cleaning up – the show relies on a lot of washed-up jokes about the ball-and-chain of marriage. Eventually she’s had enough and, by the advice of best friend Margo, a recent divorcée played by Penny Miller, hires a personal assistant named Beth (played by Beverly Gorman), who is so dedicated to Suzannah that it’s almost…suspicious. Gibby isn’t so sure about this new intruder, and madness ensues.
I’m not going to lie – the jokes kind of suck. They’re reminiscent of a mom’s Facebook page. However, that is not at the fault of the actors themselves. I actually found myself chuckling at a few puns purely because of the delivery. Any of my major grievances with ‘Till Beth Do Us Part are more relevant to the playwrights rather than the cast. So I’m going to ignore them.
I grew up in theater, so I feel I have a pretty solid idea of what makes a good show. While I wouldn’t call this one of the best shows I’ve seen, I was quite impressed with how well it went, especially considering it came from a small-town community theater. The acting was great and truly immersive. Even after the show when the actors were doing a meet-and-greet I saw them as their characters. The relationships on stage seemed real and genuine, and the jokes that I think could have landed, did. (It takes a lot for me to laugh, and my fellow audience members found it more hilarious than I, so maybe I’m just a stick in the mud.) It was obvious how much work was put into the production as a whole, and that was enough to make it enjoyable.
Overall I enjoyed the show. I know I criticize the humor, but even the worst jokes weren’t enough to make me cringe. It was a type of humor that wasn’t geared towards me, so it’s no shocker that I didn’t find every joke a winner. However, the set was solid, albeit with some way-too-long scene changes. The actors were impressive, the costumes blended perfectly – if you’ve been in theater before, you understand how ragtag costumes can sometimes appear.
It was a heartwarming experience, not only to watch the play, but to see the bond that it created among the audience members, most of which were members of the Crawford community. Between acts people were cutting up with one another, talking about where to eat afterward, and showing way too many pictures of their grandchildren. It was a sweet slice of a southern community, and I was so happy to be able to stand as a witness.
With enough love and dedication, even the worst comedies can be turned into little gems, and that’s what happened in Crawford. I’m already keeping an eye out for the company’s next show, if for nothing else but to immerse myself in that hometown feeling once again.
They say work and play. But in a “play” (Get it?) centered around the stress of work and marriage, it seems that for once, some things can come together and make something magic.