‘First Baptist of Ivy Gap’ — A theatre review

Published 6:07 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2008

War torn families, religious overtones and personal relationships are major topics covered in Picayune on Stage’s latest production.

“First Baptist of Ivy Gap” by Ron Osborne is set to entertain the populace of Pearl River County, for a small fee of course.

True to its name Picayune on Stage puts community members on stage. The characters include Luby, the distraught mother of a World War II military man, played by Toni Tucker; Olene, the girl next door who dreams of becoming a star, played by Liz Flynt; Tara Poolson plays Mae Ellen, the free spirited church organist who also dreams of leaving her small town to achieve fame; Bonnie Hughes plays Edith, the minister’s wife who accepts her congregation as family in spite of their faults; Jessica Lacour played the town’s affluent business man’s wife Vera and POS freshman Ginger Schmidt plays Sammy, a newcomer to the church who has a mysterious relationship with Luby.

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Two wars take place during the course of the play, World War II and the Vietnam war. While the plot uses the wars as footnotes, the impact the wars have on the mothers of those military men takes center stage.

Act one takes place in April of 1945 just as World War II is coming to an end. It also happens to be the 75th anniversary of a fictional church in a fictional town — Ivy Gap, Tenn. Without spoiling the ending or the overall story for those who plan to see this well implemented local production, act one has a group of church going women making surgical dressings for wounded military men participating in WWII.

Twenty-five years later, in act two, the church is putting on its 100th anniversary event. At that time the Vietnam war is in full swing and the women reunite to partake in the church’s 100th anniversary. Act two covers what has changed in the last 25 years of the women’s lives.

In each time period a character has a son overseas fighting in a war.

Throughout the play most of the scenes take place in the church. Only one short scene takes place outside of the church on Luby’s front porch.

In act one the commanding presence of Lacour grabbed the audience’s attention as she took the stage to bellow commands as well as any drill sergeant. Poolson and Flynt exuded an enormous amount of energy into characters that demanded as much to put on a short song and dance for the audience, which also takes place in act two.

Hughes showed true compassion in her performance as she interacted with the other characters, acting as mother hen for her congregation.

The highlight of the play may have been when the tension between Luby and Sammy peaked at the end. The emotional interaction between Tucker and Schmidt could make any manly man cry. Except me of course.

Humor is liberally laden throughout the play’s script. Gentle jabs are poked at religion, personal relationships and life decisions. One of my favorite lines came from the minister’s wife, “As long as you can swim you can be a Baptist”. Edith has another humorous line that alludes to a piece of apparel designed to cover only a small portion of the female anatomy. I will leave it up to the audience to pick it out.

POS’s production of “First Baptist of Ivy Gap” is worthy of everyone’s attendance and should not be missed.