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Carpenter Square presents 'Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean'



To open its silver anniversary season, Carpenter Square Theatre is going back to it roots and reviving one of its first plays ever produced: Ed Graczyk's west Texas comedy-drama "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean." This is CST's third production of "Jimmy Dean," and, as was the 1988 edition, it is directed by Rhonda Clark.

 This not particularly compelling play concerns certain members of the Disciples of James Dean fan club, and the group's name is meant literally. They worship the actor as if he were a deity. Their shrine to him still stands in a corner of the H.L. Kressmont 5 & Dime in dusty McCarthy, Texas, where the play is set, which is near Marfa, where Dean's last motion picture, "Giant," was filmed. The Disciples are gathering for a 20th-anniversary reunion on Sept. 30, 1975, which is 20 years to the day after Dean died in an automobile accident in California.

Regrets? They've had a few and not necessarily too few to mention.

Mona, who is one of the Disciples, claims to be the mother of Dean's only son, the product of a one-night union on the "Giant" location. Mona became a minor celebrity locally when she exhibited the alleged Dean scion like a sideshow freak. Now, the baby, who is the eponymous Jimmy Dean and is never seen onstage, is grown and "retarded in the brain," as Mona says.

The characters in the play are largely caricatures. You have the sanctimonious Holy Roller, the loudmouthed country-club parvenu, the floozy and the affably endearing dimwit, who, it turns out, is genuinely happier than all of the rest of them put together. With a Stella May and an Edna Louise, even the character's names are caricatures.

The play jumps back and forth between 1955 and 1975. Mona of 1975 is played by Ginger Gilmartin-Smith, and Mona of 1955 is played by Danielle Coody. Carla Goldsmith plays Sissy in 1975, another Disciple, while Caitlin Cairns plays Sissy in 1955. Joanne (Vikki Simer) also appears in a younger incarnation. The actors who play the same characters do not resemble each other enough physically for the conceit to work, but you can see what the playwright intended.

The time shifts are tricky to stage. Sometimes the characters from 1955 and 1975 appear onstage at the same time. The staging is not really clarified by Kyle Watson's lighting design.

The acting is generally credible. Mary Sue Backus plays Edna, a sweet and very pregnant hairdresser. Laurel Jaworsky is Juanita, proprietor of the five-and-dime. Ryan Johnson holds down the spear side of the cast as Joe, the only male Disciple.

The play becomes a little far-fetched by the end. This reunion of the Disciples turns out to be cathartic. Old scores are settled; deep, dark secrets are revealed; and the ending is a little too pat.  "?Larry Laneer


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