Now 10 years old, Park City Performances is maturing into a regional theater company to be reckoned with.
For much of the company's first decade, we (and some of those who had patronized it) considered PCP mostly in the realm of community theater - just a group of local part-time actors and friends getting together informally to present a season of plays.Then, a little more than a year ago, PCP changed directions and took on a decidedly more professional stance. With Rafael Colon Castanera as its new artistic director (a multi-threat fellow who also dabbles in costuming, scenery design, directing, acting, even sweeping up after the show), Park City Performances is proving to be an innovative troupe, indeed.
Take its latest offering - the regional premiere of Del Shores' comedy, "Daddy's Dyin' (Who's Got the Will?)," with Edward J. Gryska, artistic director at Salt Lake Acting Company, as guest director, and a cast that is three-fourths Salt Lakers.
The play itself is about the members of a rural Texas family coming home during the sweltering summer of 1986 after the patriarch of the clan has suffered a serious, possibly fatal, stroke. The script is packed with "Steel Magnolias"-style poignancy and sharp humor.
Buford "Daddy" Turnover, played by Frank M. Bell, is the central character here. Partially paralyzed by the stroke, he's somewhat ambulatory - but his mind wanders off more than his body does. When he's on stage, he attempts to play dominoes with jellied candy orange slices or babbles about needing to plow the south 40 or complains about the snow (when in reality it's 103 in the shade, judging by the temperature sign down at the Piggly Wiggly).
Half the time, Daddy's out of sight, recuperating in his upstairs bedroom - allowing his assortment of kinfolk to debate the possible whereabouts and potential size of his will. Even when he's not physically on stage, Daddy maintains a strong presence.
Some of the humor is sort of cornball, but Shores has created a group of interesting, if somewhat stereotyped, characters. Buford Turnover's four children - three daughters and one obnoxious son - don't exactly demonstrate the epitome of familial love. Their reactions to and about each other range from quiet disgust to open hostility. Grandma (Mama Wheelis, played by Donna Todd); Marlene, Orville's abused wife, and Harmony Rhodes, youngest daughter Evalita's latest in a long string of husbands and fiances, also get into the fray.
Gryska's cast is in fine form.
One notable standout is Todd, as the feisty, outspoken grandmother. Not much gets past this spunky lady, whether she's back in the kitchen tending to her pot roast or outrunning the neighbor's ornery Heinz 57 mutt.
Stephen Fletcher (Harmony) and Janae Gibbs (Marlene) also have their characters down pat.
The Turnover children are: Lurlene, the oldest, played by Jayceen Craven; stuck-at-home Sara Lee, the middle sister, played by Betsy Nagel oft-married Evalita, played by Margo Prey, and their belligerent redneck brother, Orville, played by Richard Scott.
The real fireworks are between the brother and sisters. Lurlene is married to a Bible-thumping preacher. At one point, the family is gathered around the dinner table. Sara Lee asks Lurlene to offer grace.
"Keep it short, I'm starved!" warns little brother Orville.
A few moments later, during a prayer that is obviously much too long to suit Orville's tastes, Lurlene pleads for the Lord to "take the greed out of this family and replace it with love."
Nice thought, but it doesn't work.
By the time we're well into the second act, Orville's wife and Evalita's fiance have some ideas of their own, Evalita has been out "alley-catting" around, and Orville is ready to pry Buford's strongbox open with a crowbar.
One of the funniest scenes is when overweight Marlene and vegetarian Harmony both fall off their respective wagons, feasting on roast beef sandwiches and cream pie.
We won't give away any of the family secrets.
Does Daddy eventually die?
Do the kids track down his will?
Sorry - this play is a lot more fun if the surprises are intact.
But, for me, the nicest surprise was to see how Park City Performances has developed into a fine company.
We also need to mention Castanera's set and costumes and Kiyono Oshiro's lighting. These elements are also very effective.
"Daddy's Dyin' " is well worth a trip up Parley's Canyon to Park City.