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Incline’s “Church Girls” Provides Irreverent Fun

Review by Doug Iden of “Church Girls”: Incline Theatre

Prepare to suspend your disbelief as six male actors drag you into the activities of the Women’s auxiliary of the Umatilla Second Christian Church in “Church Girls, The Musical” opening at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.  The women, along with a total of 23 characters, try to plan the annual Mother’s Day program plus other hijinks.  The tone and structure of this show echoes “Nunsense” with its combination of satire, buffoonery, outrageous behavior and naiveté of rural, small town Florida.

Consistently breaking the theatrical “fourth wall”, twin sisters Daisy Feldspar (Ken Jones) and Maisy Shirkwater (Roderick Justice) continually talk to the audience as though they are members of the congregation. Other members of the Women’s Auxiliary include Cloretta Powers (Brandon Bentley), Sherry Coldenspore (A. Janes Jones), nasty Minerva Beehimer (Rodger Pille) and the newest member Revita Glory (Jeshaun Jackson).  Being astute readers, I’m sure that you noted that the Women’s Auxiliary members are all men. Not only that, but each of them plays a variety of other characters which leads to the tour-de-force of six actors playing multiple roles while enduring a dizzying number of rapid costume changes.  Dressers do not normally earn a mention in a review but Madeleine Burgoon, Arianna Catalano and Will Jones ensured that each of the characters were properly dressed.

A seventh “lady”, Darlene Opal (played by Jamey Strawn) is also the composer and Music Director of the show.  Strawn only has a few lines but plays the keyboard on stage to accompany the cast.

The play is a series of vignettes during which different characters and different rural views are satirized.  The opening number (composed by Strawn and Director/lyricist Christine Jones) is “Not Just an Amen” using puns to introduce the gender-bending reality of the show.   In the song “Watch What You Say”, Maisy and Cloretta enumerate a series of words which they think should be banned by the City Council such as “humpback”, “rubber band” and “pound cake”.   Climate change is spoofed in the song “I Don’t Mind Global Warning” when Minerva and the company bemoans the fact that “your carbon footprint crushed me”.  

The climax comes when Sherry Coldenspore picks “Oedipus Rex” as the play they should do to celebrate a mother’s love for her son and vice versa.  Obviously, no one had actually read the classic Greek tragedy.  Their attempt to do the play is both disastrous and hilarious. They do not shy away from race issues either since their newest member, Revita, is black.  The other women attempt to do some soul and gospel singing while telling Revita that they are “Just Like You”.  Revita’s response is the musical “Shut Your Mouth”.  

The zaniest of the other characters include sleazy Larry Coldenspore (Sherry’s husband, played by Jones) who tries to team with Harley Buford (Rodger Pille) to open a drive through dialysis service.  Pille also plays the ineffectual pastor Rev. Harv Feldspar, who needs frequent prompting from his wife Daisy while giving his sermons.  Other highlights include costume designer Irma Snead (Jones) who smokes incessantly and wears faux leopard pants. Rupert Eikenberry (Jones again) plays a creepy mortician and Roderick Justice portrays a botox-infused Naomi May Hooker whose face keeps slipping.  Jackson plays the only two redeemable characters including Jefferson Glory who commiserates with Sherry because of her husband’s infidelity.

Despite all the character and costume switching, there were no mistakes which is a major tribute to the actors, the dressers and the director.

The music is not memorable but the lyrics for some of the songs are very clever and several gospel numbers are loud and enthusiastic. The voices of the actors are solid with a special nod to Jackson and Pille.

The set designed by Ken Jones is static but it effectively displays the inside of the church.  The variety of costumes (by Table for Five) and wigs by Roderick Justice are significant ranging from “old lady” dresses to camouflage outfits to the Pastors suit to fat body suits to the mortician dressed in black.

Overall, the play is very funny, somewhat risqué and an equal opportunity satire.  

So, enjoy your visit to the Bible Belt with the exuberant Church Girls, The Musicalplaying at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater through June 30.