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Johnson County Community Theatre gives a Texas-sized performance

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

The JCCT (Johnson County Community Theatre) took the Heritage Hall stage last weekend for several performances of the Jones, Hope, Wooten production, “Rex’s Exes.” This isn’t the first time the JCCT took on a Jones, Hope, Wooten, classic; past performances have included The Red Velvet Cake War, The Hallelujah Girls, Mama Won’t Fly, and Southern Hospitality.
Rex’s Exes, like previous Jones, Hope, Wooten productions, is set in the town of Sweetgum, Texas where the women are feisty, the men are clueless, and the laughs are Texas-sized. The story is centered on the Verdeen cousins, Gaynelle (Judy Walsh), Jimmie Wyvette (Jacqueline Mann), and Peaches (Brooklynne Dunn). The trio never seems to find their fill of trouble and their antics always make for a laugh-out-loud train wreck of epic proportions.
Judy Walsh, is a JCCT veteran and always the star of the show. She starred as Gaynelle Verdeen in the JCCT production of Rex’s Exes and her reputation for a stellar performance didn’t disappoint. Through a plethora of preposterous costume changes and a serious addiction to Reddi-Whip, Walsh had the audience rolling in the aisles with lines like “Here’s some good news; you can barely even tell you’re getting a turkey neck.” As Gaynelle mourns the loss of her youth; Walsh’ ability to maintain an appropriate austere aura during even the most ridiculous scenes is impressive to say the least.
The role of Peaches Verdeen Belrose was played by Brooklynne Dunn. The beautiful actress has a knack for the physical manifestation of her character and you never quite know when she’s going to let out a frenzied shriek or wear someone down with one of her notorious fiery fits of fury. Dunn’s character was gainfully employed as an “eternal slumber makeup artist”, or more plainly, a post-mortem cosmetologist, and she was enjoying her life as a widow; that is until she begins to have visions of her ‘dead’ husband’s ghost everywhere she goes. Dunn was the perfect cast for the bubbly but unstable Peaches and she made the role a joy to behold while maintaining a “Texas women should be pageant ready at all times” philosophy.
Jacqueline Mann took on the role of the Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen in the JCCT production of Rex’s Exes. Mann sauntered across the stage like every good rebel flag belt buckle clad, camouflaged wedding dress designing, Texas woman should. As the owner of “Wide Brides”, Mann’s character takes pride in the designing of “big beautiful gowns, for Texas sized women.” The chemistry Mann brought to the Verdeen trio was priceless and she brought to the stage a sense of reason in an otherwise unreasonable band of mentally unstable inhabitants.
Director Michael Eggers also starred in the production, taking on the role of Theodore Rexford Belrose. Eggers displayed an excellent portrayal of the somewhat nervous and infinitely wrongdoing Rex Belrose. He showed true dedication to the craft by never batting an eye through questionable costume changes and the pressure of a Louisiana bounty hunter hot on his trail.
Uncle Aubrey Verdeen was portrayed by Dr. Don Tarr. Dr. Tarr was absolute comic genius as the ‘over-excited’ Uncle Verdeen and there wasn’t a single line that didn’t leave the audience in stitches. As Tarr chased Mama Doll Hargis (DeLite Becker) across the stage, oxygen tank in tow, he never paused to ponder whether or not his often inappropriate one-liners might offend.
Kelsey Younge showed an amazing feat of versatility by taking on the part of Bitsy Hargis as well as the role of Gentle Harmony. Younge’s representation of the striking but meddlesome Bitsy had just the right amount of sass topped off with a dash of contempt and her embodiment of the spacey hypnotherapist, Gentle Harmony, was a hilarious contrast. Transitioning between the polar opposite characters was a challenge that seemingly never fazed the talented Younge.
The role of Cee Cee Windham, or better known as the host of “Hospitality House”, was played by Dorinda Walters. Perpetually suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, Cee Cee is an expert at giving unwarranted advice. Walters is no stranger to the Heritage Hall stage and she has never given a disappointing performance. Though her role in Rex’s Exes was brief, her performance was anything but small and she shined just as bright as her rhinestone adorned blouse, navigating her way with ease through lines like “And remember, if you smoke after you make love, you’re doing it too fast.”
Marlissa Crutchfield, or better known as “the third lady of Texas” was played by Carol McCroskey. McCroskey brought professionalism and vibrancy to the stage as she flawlessly carried out the role of Cruchfield. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, the uppity third lady had no idea that a visit to Sweetgum might be the very thing that could send her over the brink.
The judgmental and mostly miserable LaMerle Verdeen Minshew was played by Janet Griffith. Griffith gave a commanding performance as she portrayed LaMerle who spent most of her time scolding the ornery Uncle Aubrey, attempting to cover up her sordid past, and passing judgment on her family’s more controversial decisions.
comedy and as they often say at our local theatrical venue “you don’t even have to leave town.”

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