By Steve Wong
And, “Pouf!” there was laughter throughout Greenville’s Centre Stage theater in the company’s pandemic-delayed production of one its 2020 New Play Festival Winners.
South Carolina playwright Lou Clyde has created a gem of a comedy that through laughter and subtle human insight asks the underlying question: “Can a good hair-do really change your life?”
Set in the late 1950s, the award-winning play is slightly surreal in a world where housewives wear heels and stand-out petticoats as their starch hankies, watch soap operas, and gossip with strong Yankee accents.
But Betty, played by Rebecca Payne, has a hidden talent just waiting to be tapped. Betty can pouf hair, earn money, and make people happy. She is encouraged by her pregnant sister Mary, played by Anna Brown, to set up shop in her living room, decorated with stolen gravesite flowers.
But her mom Teresa, played by Kelly Wallace, is more interested in having another child; she has 13, but who’s counting?
Husband John, played by Jonathan Raines, is a little embarrassed about his low sperm count, but he keeps trying, when he’s not going to work, eating on schedule, or watching the tube with his feet up. If he had only taken up Betty’s offer to pouf his hair, like Elvis’s signature pompadour.
As proof to the power of the pouf, just look at Margo, played by Meghan Todd, Betty’s first and very satisfied client. Middle-age was weighing heavy on Margo, and her husband’s romantic neglect wasn’t helping. She got a pouf and got her life back on track and began dressing better, losing weight, and having date nights.
Betty only charges $3 per pouf, but Margo is so happy with her hair and the good life that has come with it, she pays happily and tips to the extreme.
Or, check out mailman Ray’s gray pompadour. Ray, played by Louis Buttino Jr., has had a senior shine for Teresa for some while, but Teresa is still in mourning, now five years after her husband’s passing. Until Betty poufed him, Teresa had declined his advances. Or, it could have been that glimpse at Teresa’s unmentionables that broke the ice. Seeing the staid and fully clothed Teresa lying on the couch with her legs spread high and wide while jabbering about her son-in-law’s ejaculations could have had some influence.
The Greenville audience giggled and laughed out loud at the absurd but possible storyline, witty one-liners, and comedic physicality of Pouf! The set design by John Fagan created a perfect environment for the conservative and yet off-kilter characters: a peach and teal palette with an eclectic mix of homy, funky, and ‘50s postmodernism home decor.
Director Amy Dunlap should be very proud of her cast that kept the creative energy in the air, like a can of hairspray that holds the stylized production in place and looking good. Pouf! is a theatrical delight, brought to larger-than-life by Centre Stage.
Pouf! only played one weekend. But don’t miss Centre Stage’s next production “9 to 5: The Musical” March 10-April 3 in Greenville. Call (864) 233-6733 or visit www.proudmarytheatre.com.