This past weekend I enjoyed another trip out to Rosebud to take in the first offering of their 2012 season, Kristen Shepherd’s “$38,000 for a Friendly Face.”
I had heard that the play was a comedy about a director of a funeral home who didn’t know how to create an appropriate celebration of life for a woman that nobody liked. I wasn’t exactly sure how “comedy” and “funeral home” could end up in the same sentence, but I went in with an open mind.
As predicted, the story was a little bit crazy. The play begins in a small-town funeral home, where polar opposite sisters Annie (Alysa van Haastert) and Jane (Heather Pattengale), who haven’t kept in contact over the years, have come together for their mother’s “celebration of life”. However, they are the only two in attendance, and it is revealed that they were as estranged from their mother as they were from each other.
Upon realizing that the “celebration” for Bronwyn Bane may not go as planned, the quirky funeral home director Matt Watson (Nathan Schmidt), attempts to salvage the day.
We also meet the Last Supper Committee, three local women who are in charge of preparing the food for the funeral services. It is discovered that they have problems of their own, so things begin to deteriorate on every front for Mrs. Bane’s “celebration.”
After the first act, the theme of the play begins to emerge as we learn more about the individual characters and how they each have a unique story, whether it is obvious or not. Although the tense situation between the Bane sisters and Watson creates for some humorous moments, a lot of emotion and reminiscence also come to the surface for the characters.
There are seven characters in the play, each with a story, and all seven were perfectly cast as each.
Alysa van Haastert and Heather Pattengale were a perfect duo as Annie and Jane. They played off each other perfectly to create believable arguments between two estranged sisters. Heather Pattengale’s facial expressions will never cease to amaze me, and her ability to succeed in every role I’ve seen her in is astounding. Jeany Van Meltebeke as Esther, Kelsey Krogman as Marge and Leah T. Hearne as Phyl were perfect as the Last Supper Committee, and had the audience chuckling continually at their bickering and believability as three small-town women who have known one another their whole lives.
Nathan Schmidt was arguably the most comical as funeral director Matt Watson. His dumbfounded facial expressions accompanied by his line delivery worked perfectly together, especially when the things he was saying were funny without meaning to be.
I’m not sure if it was her facial expressions or the crazy makeup and hair, but there was something about Jesse Anderson as flower delivery girl Alison that made me miss her in every scene she wasn’t in. In the beginning I was confused as to what her role was, as she stuck out like a sore thumb beside everyone else with her tattoos, piercings and black hair, but in the end she was a key element in bringing everyone together. Her one-liners were the ones who had the audience in stiches the longest, and her performance stood out to me the most.
$38,000 For a Friendly Face provides a heartfelt story and lots of laughs all at once, and is definitely worth a trip out to Rosebud to see.
The play will run until May 12, with Anne of Green Gables to follow beginning on May 25.
For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-267-7553. For more information visit www.rosebudtheatre.com