Dixie Theatre features serious comedy in repertory

Cleo Holladay crafts an indelible portrait of Mrs. Mannerly. Photo available for purchase

Cleo Holladay crafts an indelible portrait of Mrs. Mannerly.

David Adlerstein
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM.

That a living, breathing human soul is standing just a few feet away, near enough to see and hear but with enough distance that we may quietly avert our eyes if we wish, is a big reason live theatre can affect us as it does.

In such a quiet, comfortable place as a small theatre, where one’s attention is disturbed only by that which the tranquil mind conjures, the full embodiment of a captivating story, and a deeper response to the characters in it, can be thoroughly enjoyed, more so than reading about them in a novel, or a newspaper.

When characters are finely drawn by the playwright, and then fully enlivened by the actors, the show will delight, and the audience will walk away glad to have had seats when the curtain opened, and all the way through to the moment it closed.

For the past two weeks, the Dixie Theatre’s 17th professional season has presented, in repertory, a pair of plays that provide just such an experience. They offer a passing opportunity, especially rare in places such as here where stage plays are infrequent, to enjoy a fine example of theatre’s power.

This weekend is the final one for the shows, both comedies with an underlying, more than occasionally glimpsed, layer of sadness.

“Mrs. Mannerly” takes place entirely in the imagination of the author, Jeffrey Hatcher, who reflects back nearly 40 years to the time he took a manners class in his Rust Belt childhood home of Steubenville, Ohio. Presented without interruption, with its two characters on stage nearly entirely throughout, the play features the lead actor (Eric Folks) as the narrator Jeffrey, who brings to life seven other characters – his father, a coarse and comic boor; his flamboyant drama teacher, Bill Crossky, who obsesses on all things showbiz; four of his classmates, Chucky the annoying suck-up, Jamie the inquisitive and sexually curious, Kim the Cold War paranoid, and Ralph the sluggish slob; and Patsy, the sexpot who is Jeffrey’s only rival to earning a perfect score for etiquette at the end-of-the-year matron’s ball.

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