It’s Party Time in Texas with Larger than Life Women, a Ghost, and Geriatric Lust
BY STEVE WONG
When you go see Rex’s Exes, the current play at The Historic Pelzer Auditorium (with gorgeous brand new lighting) produced by Mill Town Players, you need not worry about overly sophisticated themes, underlying symbolism, or a storyline that might leave you wondering what it all meant. All you need do is grab a few of those $1 candy bars at the concession stand, take a load off in one of those fold-down wooden chairs in the balcony, and laugh at those crazy Verdeen cousins down in Sweetgum, TX.
Gaynelle is turning 50 and is about to have a nervous breakdown over it (if she doesn’t overdose on canned whipped cream), Jimmie Wyvette might win the state’s Yellow Rose business award for her “Wide Bride” wedding dresses, and Peaches is seeing the ghost of her husband, Theodore Rexford Belrose “T. Rex,” when she’s not beautifying the dearly departed at the local funeral home. And, don’t ignore Aubrey Verdeen because he’s old as dirt, pulls an oxygen tank, and deaf to his thunderous flatulence: He has his eye on old Mama Doll, who’s looking mighty fine pushing that walker with yellow tennis balls in her fluffy pink robe and a headful of gray kinky curls and pink plastic rollers. I think it’s her girlish giggles that spark Aubrey’s manly interests.
If all of this Southern-fried humor sounds a bit too familiar, you may have already been a guest of the Verdeens when they cooked up The Red Velvet Cake War, the first play in a trilogy that ends with Last Round-up of the Guacamole Queens, which you’ll be able to see next season, same playhouse, same month. This brand of laugh-out-loud humor is brought to the stage thanks to playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, Jamie Wooten, who are credited with well known shows such as The Savannah Sipping Society, Always a Bridesmaid, and Hallelujah Girls.
But let’s not get bogged down with perspective details, when all we want are a few good laughs.
Like many of the Jones Hope Wooten productions, Rex’s Exes is all about girl power, disguised as girls gone wild. Playing every wild card in the deck, the three leading ladies here are Carrie Ponder as Peaches, Shannon Faulkner as Jimmie Wyvette, and Tish Crittendon as Gaynelle. Together they tackle saving the family’s well-worn reputation, a snooty Third Lady of Texas, and raising the dead from a pine box in their own living room.
Yet, something ain’t right, and it’s all about that long-legged cad T. Rex, Peaches’ long-lost hubby who has returned on the lam for gambling debts and hot to trot for some long-overdue Peach love. But Jimmie Wyvette and Gaynelle have unsung romantic histories with T. Rex, and when the truth comes out, there’s nothing worse than a badly bruised peach.
Although T. Rex, played by Gary Fann, is the source of many of the Verneen’s interrelated problems, we can’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy whose legs are so long that he looks like a praying mantis trying to sidestep a wasps’ nest. He left Sweetgum to save Peaches from the fallout of his gambling and to save his own hide. When he returns — worse than ever — they think he’s a ghost. And just when he and Peaches are trying to make whoopie, he has to disguise himself as one of Jimmie Wynette’s double-wide brides wearing a white-on-white-on-more-white French wedding gown, only to be had by a Cajun hitman.
Yes, the Verdeens and friends have a lot going on. Someone is always just dropping by the house to initiate a chick fight or two, tell tales, and partake of Gaynelle’s award-winning red velvet cake. And when it comes to bridal style and fashion, Jimmie Wynette knows how to combine the various camo patterns with fiery orange lace and taffeta. With such exquisite taste, it’s almost possible to overlook her manly unibrow, jet-black shag, and dinner plate-size silver belt buckle that hold up her saggy black jeans. Oh, Gaynelle, get over turning 50 and stop sucking on those cans of whipped cream. Party? What party? No one is going to throw you a surprise birthday!
All the while, horny old Aubrey Verdeen, played by Rod McClendon, is chasing after Mama Doll, played by Kim Morgan, stealing scene after scene. Thankfully, some revelations are left to the imagination, like when Mama Doll turns her back on the audience and opens her robe for Aubrey’s visual stimulation. No wonder the old guy about croaked.
In the end, let’s just say that Gaynelle had one hell of a birthday surprise!
Directed by Will Ragland, Rex’s Exes is a goofball, silly, and fun show to see on a hot June night in Pelzer, SC. Even the most staid theatre lover would choke trying to not laugh at the Verdeens’ antics. The lead and supporting cast are commended for letting their hair down and bringing down the house. You, go, girls, and the rest of us will follow for a good time.
Rex’s Exes continues through June 19 at Pelzer Auditorium 214 Lebby Street in Pelzer. For tickets and showtimes, visit milltownplayers.org or call (864) 947-8000.