Details are what make this show a success
Anyone who has ever attended a reception in the church fellowship hall will find plenty to laugh about in “Happily Ever After,” the first farce in the Okoboji Summer Theatre lineup for 2019.
While the first few minutes of the play are deliberately slow in establishing the story line, the pace soon quickens and eventually you’d best be paying careful attention or you won’t keep up.
Set in the great state of Texas, the bride is having second thoughts about her wedding and has locked herself in the church nursery. The mother is intent on getting her to change her mind and from there on the crazy antics begin to escalate.
As the show begins, take a few minutes to notice and appreciate the details of this set. There is a basketball hoop over the entrance to the fellowship hall, a rack of folding chairs along the back wall, a stained-glass window, a cross, a framed picture of a clergy man, colorful pieced quilts on a wall rack, a donor plaque with brass name plates, a bulletin board filled with announcements and air vents all along the upper edges of the room.
The details of the reception decor are hilarious, including a lavender and white balloon arch straight from the ’80s, personalized napkins, lavender color punch, bowls of mints and nuts, finger sandwiches, fruit and veggie platters, a layered wedding cake, light purple tablecloths and purple flowers. The final touches are plenty of colorful Japanese lanterns in varying sizes hung from the ceiling.
Courtney Crouse — an actor who OST audiences have enjoyed in many shows, including this season as Bert in “Mary Poppins” — makes his directing debut leading the cast through this crazy show.
Attention to detail is one of Crouse’s strengths as he pursues the little things in every aspect of the production.
His production team follows suit with well executed set pieces, costumes, lighting details and snippets of music.
The ensemble cast is a blend of Stephens College students with guest actors and acting interns. Working harder than anyone else is Kelli Harrington in the role of Adele Renfro, the mother-of-the-bride. She is distraught, yet determined. Resourceful, yet refined.
Jim Epstein plays alongside her as the father, Chester Renfro. With a Western suit, hat and boots, there’s no mistaking this man is Texan through-and-through. His preferred solution is to let a loaded pistol do his persuading, but his wife’s good sense prevails.
In true farce fashion, there is lots of physical comedy, including more than one man on stage in his boxers, and the pastor losing more than his clergy collar. After a little tryst behind the serving table, the pastor emerges with the caterer’s glasses on a feminine string around his neck and a purple tablecloth draped over his body like a toga.
When the groom strips down to his boxers he leaves on his black dress shoes, socks and garters. You will laugh out loud as the groom and his rival duke it out to the score of the movie “Rocky.”
Costume details to appreciate, designed by Cami Hubert, include the bride’s ensemble: a ruffled and beaded poof of a dress with over-the-top bedazzled platform heels. The mother is very take-charge in a Sue Ellen Ewing sort of way, dressed in lavender lace. Each time she exits the stage her head piece changes in size until the final scene where her hat is large enough that it barely fits through the doorway. The father in his Texas-state-flag inspired boxers and gun holster elicits quite a bit of laughter as well.
The supporting cast all have similarly-important roles, all adding to the overall success of the show. These include Zoe Rech as the caterer’s assistant, Sofia Garcia as the caterer, Braden Tanner as the minister, Brooke Grno as the maid of honor, Brandon Herring as the groom, Noah Vesey as the best man, Lauren Peterson as the bride, and Joseph Collins as the man intent on upsetting everything.
Lighting responsibilities fall to Winston G. Limauge, who creates a dreamy mood when the characters slip into a flashback. Set design is the work of Brandon PT Davis. Cheyenne Hensley serves as stage manager. Ben Moore handles sound. Alex Meyer serves as prop master and Noah Vesey as the fight captain.
“Happily Ever After” is a fun, though silly, evening of theatre. It is nicely positioned in the season for a bit of comic relief. The show continues through Sunday.