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Theater Review: “Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”

Plays Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm
Photo credit:
The Broadway Theatre Vista

Memory can be a bitch. Sometimes self-deception makes life easier to take. Just ask any member of the Disciples of James Dean fan club in fictional McCarthy, Texas.

It’s 1975, and the Disciples (who still haven’t forgotten when “Giant” was filmed in neighboring Marfa) are preparing for a meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Dean’s sudden and violent demise in a car crash. 

They will convene in the Kressmont Five and Dime, presided over by widow Juanita (Kimberly Wooldridge), a Bible-thumper who has memories she’d like to change. She also has little use for modernity or booze in any form.  

Some of the original club members have left McCarthy, but a few remain.

One is Mona (Brooke McCormick), changed forever by those halcyon days when she was an extra in “Giant” and had a romantic rendezvous on the steps of the Reata set.

To this day, she maintains that Jimmy Dean, the son who resulted from that tryst, is the star’s son.

But this day she is haunted by the repeated ghostlike image of Joe – the kind and gentle man who really loved her, but whom she rebuffed in favor of the fantasy.

The five-and-dime has been festooned with streamers, and a bouquet of flowers adorns the table in front of the wall of photos of the actor.

This is the work of party girl Sissy (Erica Marie Weisz), who flounces in wearing very little and showing a great deal. Sissy’s expansive, engaging personality makes her fun to be around and to watch. But she, too, harbors a painful story.

Next to arrive are Stella (Heidi Bridges) and Edna (Julia Giolzetti), and two less similar characters would be difficult to find. Stella is loud (in both clothing and speaking style), boisterous, sometimes even obnoxious, but now in a somewhat different universe because she managed to marry rich. Edna is small, mousy, plain, simple and seven months pregnant.

Last to arrive is mystery guest Joanne (Renetta Lloyd). Tall, well-dressed and refined (for West Texas), her secret will soon be revealed.

Playwright Ed Graczyk uses somewhat confusing time shifts between 1955 and 1975 to fill in backstory.

Mona and Sissy are seen in both incarnations, and are played by two actors each. Mona Then is played by Michelle Marie Trester; Sissy Then by Emily Candia. Dimming lights indicate a shift back in time.

You’ll find recognizable types (even stereotypes) in this cast: Stella, who drowns her barren life in expensive tchotchkes; Edna, the embodiment of the “woman’s place is barefoot and pregnant” dictum of the past.

But you’ll also find the character of Joe - the sensitive, non-macho male – a bit advanced for the time period. 

Director Kathy Brombacher sees to it that each cast member transcends a stick-figure interpretation.

Kudos to Doug Davis for the five-and-dime set, complete with a counter and bar stools, and to Bobbi Smith and Renetta Lloyd, who did a great job on those costumes.

“Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” is an impossible title, but the show offers a funny and poignant visit to the past.

The details

“Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” plays through May 21, 2017 at The Broadway Theater, 340 East Broadway, Vista.

Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm

Tickets: (760) 806-7905