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‘Red Velvet Cake War’ has audience rolling in the aisles

Once again, the Johnson County Community Theatre has presented a rollicking performance this past weekend with their production of  “The Red Velvet Cake War, written by North Carolina playwrights Jones, Hope and Wooten.  Within minutes, the audience found themselves in Sweet Gum, Texas and right in the middle of what seems to be yet another crisis for members of the Verdeen family.
Aunt Lamerle, played by Janet Griffith, was aghast and mortified at the recent antics of her three nieces.  She was adamant that the Verdeen family reunion must be canceled.  It seems that one of the nieces, Gaynelle, played by Judy Walsh, crashed her vehicle into the doublewide that belonged to her husband’s girlfriend.  Lamerle, referring to certain family members as part of a freak show, was quite upset that the reputation of the family had been destroyed.   Lamerle makes the decision to cancel the family reunion.  “You can either agree with me or you’re wrong,” Lamerle firmly stated.  

Jimmie Wyvette, Peaches and Gaynelle are three cousins who have helped each other out through thick and thin.  Peaches, played by Brooklynn Dunn, is a cosmetologist for a local mortuary and carries a beeper to alert her when someone is close to death and in need of her services.  In preparation, Peaches has a wig on hand for a potential client who wanted to make sure her hair was just right when she passed on. Peaches is about to declare her husband legally dead as he has been missing for seven years.
Jimmie Wyvette is the manager of a western-wear store and has her eyes on a recently widowed man.  It seems there is a competition between Peaches and Jimmie as to who will be the lucky one to find a new man, once Peaches has her husband declared dead.  Gaynelle, in the meantime, is just a hair short of a mental breakdown.
Despite Lamerle desperately wanting to cancel the family reunion, it has been moved to Gaynelle’s home.  It’s now time for the three cousins to spring into action.  To make matters worse, Gaynelle challenged Aunt Lamerle to a contest of who makes the best red velvet cake.  “We’ll just see who makes the best cake,” said Gaynelle, “I’m so sure that I’m going to win I’ll bet my house on it.”   Despite Gaynelle not having a clue how to make red velvet cake, the competition is on.  Gaynelle, in a panic, resorts to what she does in a time of crisis; she pulls whip cream from her pocket and squirts it, straight from the can, into her mouth.  

Newt Blaylock, played by producer Michael Eggers, plays the part of a one-eyed man.  After seeing Gaynelle on the local television show, “Hospitality House,” Newt informs Gaynelle, “Your butt isn’t half as big as the camera made it,” as he offers a hug.  With Lamerle already measuring the rooms of Gaynelle’s house, the cake testers decide that the 13th version of the cake is good, but not nearly as good as Aunt Lamerle’s.  Soon Gaynelle has Newt on a hunt for red-food coloring that seems to have disappeared off the shelves of the grocery stores in Sweet Gum.  Meanwhile, Gaynelle is fearful she isn’t going to pass a mental-health examination by Elsa Dowdall, played by Karla Prudhomme.
Uncle Aubrey Verdeen is played by Dr. Donald Tarr. Aubrey, despite his age and physical condition, meets Mama Doll Hargis, played by DeLite Becker, for a rendezvous in the hot tub. Aubrey follows Mama Doll, who walks with a cane, off the stage, a gleam in his eye as he carries his oxygen tank close to his chest.  With wit and an impeccable sense of timing and humor, Aubrey lets Newt know that dating a woman with short-term memory loss isn’t so bad; the romance is always new.  Aubrey has somehow gotten his hands on a prized bottle of red-food dye.   In an effort to help Newt in his quest to win Gaynelle’s heart, Aubrey gives him the coveted bottle of food dye.  Aubrey’s comments and observations about his family throughout the play are hilarious.
As Gaynelle invokes Newt’s help to distract the psychiatrist, it becomes obvious that her stress level is off the chart.  “I am a desperate woman.  Two dozen surly relatives are about to descend upon me,” she wails as she sends Newt off to keep Elsa Dowdall at bay. Surprisingly, Elsa and Newt discover they are enthralled with each other, despite the fact that Newt’s fake eye keeps popping out and he is always on the floor searching for it or rifling through the beans to find the missing eye before someone devours it.  In this side-splitting comedy, the audience follows the perils of the three cousins as the family reunion and the search to make the best red velvet cake continues.
Aunt Lamerle is very disgusted with her family and all their shenanigans.  “This isn’t a reunion.  It’s a white-trash jamboree,” she says.

The Johnson County Community Theatre production of “The Red Velvet Cake War” is, by far, one of the best plays this local talented group has achieved.  While all of their works have been superb, this play is a step above.  Each and every character in “The Red Velvet Cake War” has been carefully woven into the crazy antics of the Verdeen clan. With tears in their eyes and stomachs aching from laughing so hard, the audience hooted and howled as they were swept away into the world of the Verdeen family.  The play itself was full of memorable quips that were timed with perfection.  Each member of this ingenious group did a spectacular job.  “The Red Velvet Cake War” will remain in the hearts and minds of all who had the privilege to see this play, bringing smiles and guffaws as they recall some of the antics of the Sweet Gum residents.
If you would like to find out what happens to Gaynelle, her house and who makes the best red velvet cake in Sweet Gum, there will be two more opportunities as “The Red Velvet Cake War” will be presented again on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25.