Laughs accompany greed, sanctimony and hubris in Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will? | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

Laughs accompany greed, sanctimony and hubris in Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will? 

Let's face it: If you're looking for the cutting edge in live theater, summer stock usually isn't where you go to find it.

More or less by mutual consent, companies and crowds alike take a three-month break from Ibsen, Strindberg and Beckett, turning their attentions to otherwise neglected genres: the screwball comedy, the romantic farce and the murder mystery.

TheatreFest, the longest ongoing summer stock practitioner in the area, has built a constituency over the years on a formula of vintage comedies and mysteries, with the occasional Noel Coward upgrade. But this year, the first dish of their new season has more pepper in it than might be expected.

With a title like Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will?, most will expect little from Del Shore's 1988 play but small-town Southern contretemps, played for laughs. But the work, which was made into a 1990 film starring Beau Bridges and Tess Harper, does more than use its characters as a convenient source of disposable punch lines.

Under Allison Bergman's direction, this tale hits all of the expected notes as three adult children pull out a formidable collection of old axes for further grinding when they return home for the final days of patriarch Buford "Daddy" Turnover, who gets an ultimately touching read by Danny Norris.

These skirmishes over life choices—in which the phrase "white trash" occurs more than once—are just barely presided over by Mama Wheelis (a good Joanne Dickinson), the no-nonsense grandmother.

The laughs that accompany the greed, sanctimony and hubris in this comedy (and the hair and costume choices of designer Em Rossi) stop when characters share believable moments of grief. We also pause when Shore makes it clear that he doesn't consider the family's misogyny and abusiveness a laughing matter. More than one character relates being beaten in months or years past, before T. Philip Caudle's short-fused Orville threatens his wife, Marlene (the solid Sandi Sullivan).

But in this world, bullies get comeuppance, women escape and justice comes in a distinctly poetic variety. If Shore's approach doesn't quite match up to the Southern satire of Preston Jones, it's in the same county, deep in the heart of Texas.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Summer stock market."

Related Locations


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater

Twitter Activity


Four of our friends accompanied us to this production. We have seen other Wendy Ward productions and loved them all …

by Gann Watson on Embark on a Timely Voyage Into Immigration Issues in I Wish You a Boat (Theater)

Thanks for the correction, Dustin. The playbill listed the wrong actor in the role.

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Evaluating Bare Theatre's Experiment in Free Public Shakespeare on the Eve of Its Final Show (Theater)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation