Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Las Vegas Little Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

Also see Mary's review of Farragut North


Bonnie Belle, Matthew Antonizick, Gillen Brey,
Jennifer Whitney, and Sydney Peca Story

Photo by Kris Mayeshiro, KM2 Creative
In a five-and-dime store in a small Texas town in 1975, an all-female James Dean fan club gathers 20 years after the movie star visited the area while filming Giant in nearby Marfa. As the group gets reacquainted and relives their high school years—including memories both pleasant and horrific—one member, Mona, recounts her well-worn tale of working as an extra on the film and making love to Dean one night under the stars. Some months later, she gave birth to a son whom she named Jimmy Dean. After trumpeting the infant's paternity as a lure for tourists, Mona later concludes that the boy is feeble-minded, and keeps him under close supervision even at the age of 20. As the women delve into their collective reminiscences, an oddly familiar stranger arrives.

If the story sounds cringeworthy, apparently the critics agreed when Ed Graczyk's Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean opened on Broadway in 1976. (Robert Altman's film adaptation fared somewhat better.) The current production at the Las Vegas Little Theatre offers a chance to reappraise the work 40 years after its Broadway debut.

On the plus side, the play's exploration of gender identity seems insightful for its time. Joe, the girls high school friend, suffered bullying, rejection, and physical abuse as a teenager because he failed to fit the traditional Texas image of a macho man. Joe's subsequent life choices reflect the few options available to a nontraditional male in small town Texas in the 1950s. The women, too, experience the consequences of being complicit in Joes ostracism.

In other respects, however, the play's characters and storyline seem formulaic and hokey, the emotional crescendos and big reveals popping up at predictable intervals, much like the paint-by-numbers disaster movies of the 1970s. If Jimmy Dean ever was a good play, it has not aged well. The disparaging jokes about Mexicans and wetbacks are especially painful; the audience discomfort on opening night was palpable.

Breathing life into this clumsy vehicle may be beyond the capacity of any amateur company. While LVLT gives it an honest effort, E. Wayne Worley's direction fails to elevate the material. Also, on opening night, the pacing in some scenes was far too slow, and some performers seemed to be searching for their lines.

For the most part, the actors are adequate, but it would take stars with mega-wattage to make us care about most of these characters. There is a noticeable jump in energy late in the play, with the arrival of Stella May (a loud, coarse, brassy and fun Gillen Brey) and the sweet and simple Edna Louise (the talented Bonnie Belle, making a big impression in a relatively small role).

A highlight of the evening is set designer Ron Lindblom's nostalgic five-and-dime store, lovingly stocked with details like the lunch counter's daily special (corn fritters) and a big box of Moon Pies.

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean continues through September 25, 2016, Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 2pm, and Saturday, September 17, at 2 pm) at the Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89103. For tickets ($24 adults, $21 seniors and students) and further information, go to www.lvlt.org or call 702-362-7996.

Cast
Juanita: Cassie McGuire
Mona: Kim Glover
Joe: Matthew Antonizick
Mona (Then): Jennifer Whitney
Sissy: Diane King
Sissy (Then); Sydney Peca Story
Joanne: Marlena Shapiro
Stella May: Gillen Brey
Edna Louise: Bonnie Belle

Additional Creative
Lighting design by Ginny Adams; costume design by Kim Glover; sound design by Sandy Stein.


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