Southern Fried Funeral is family drama, made funny
For a play based in the American South, Southern Fried Funeral sure looks remarkably like rural Ontario.
The comedic tale, which is directed by Maureen Matchett and opens tonight at the Lucknow Townhall Theatre, focuses on the Frye family shortly after the death of patriarch Dewey Frye Sr. as his widow Dorothy, played by Vicki McKague, is left to captain the ship, navigating through a funeral, familial drama and a threat to her house.
While the bullet points of the play written by Osborne and Eppler may seem darker than your typical family-centred comedy, it’s the extremes of the characters that both make Southern Fried Funeral funny and curiously familiar on the stage in Lucknow.
Ozella Meeks, a town know-it-all played by a charismatic Andrea Feeley, is a character that the actress acknowledges is a bit of “nosey Parker.” Ozella beams at overhearing information she hasn’t been invited to know.
“Ozella is disliked,” Feeley said. “They’d rather eat a bag of hair than talk to me. Every town has one of these.”
But Meeks, who is certainly not meek, is not all bad. As Feeley said, Ozella is a bit of a softy.
“She means well and she wants this funeral to go off well,” she said. “And Ozela knew Dewey and so she thinks she’s part of the family.”
Shepherd-Adamson plays the prodigal daughter who left town and is constantly reminded of her past in the small community, while Muirs portrays the over-worked and under-appreciated daughter who stays back to care for the family, including her own.
“I like that she really cares about everybody,” Muirs said about her character. “She puts everyone ahead of herself for sure. Maybe a little too much.”
“I’m a big sister trying to find herself,” Shepherd-Adamson said about Harlene. “Always feeling like she’s not good enough because her little sister is little miss perfect.”
Rounding out the sibling dynamic is the oblivious Dewey Jr. played by Terry Marsh. The younger Dewey male demonstrates where his head is at, dressed in fantasy garb like Star Wars pyjamas, and fortunately for the family, he is effectively a bucket of water cooling down the conflict between the sisters.
“He’s operating on a slightly different wave length,” Marsh said. “It’s like a parallel universe almost.”
It’s a spacious role that Marsh jokes he was typecast for.
Aside from a touch of family drama and twist ending, Southern Fried Funeral is an exercise into how far small arguments can go with hilarious results. Spoiler alert: the arguments, which are about almost nothing, do indeed go very far.
And for Muir, who said she didn’t have much sister-related conflict in her own life to draw from, performing the role of sister, daughter, wife and mother who is tasked with holding everyone to account is a physically draining one.
“I find especially with my character, because I’m constantly yelling at everybody, by the drive home I’m just so tired,” she said.
Southern Fried Funeral, which also features Bev Ellis, Julie Bullivant, Tony Martens, Tony McQuail, Bill Cooper and Ben Hustis, is scheduled to take the stage seven times and runs until May 5 at the Lucknow Townhall Theatre.