Batavia Players invite all to ‘Come Back to the Five and Dime’
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Batavia Players invite all to ‘Come Back to the Five and Dime’

Feb 11, 2016

BATAVIA — Melinda Grimble is no newcomer to Batavia Players after being in charge of membership, the newsletter, box office and website over the last six years.

But this month she will come alive as Mona on stage.

“I was always behind the scenes. This has been on my bucket list,” she said in a faint Kentucky drawl. “It has been amazing. I’m using more of my accent. Mona is a lost soul. She wants to be accepted and will do anything to be accepted. She is very, very sad.”

Despite her character’s somber demeanor, Grimble described the show, “Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” as a comedy and drama rolled into one. The story is based on old high school chums that gather years later for a James Dean Club reunion. Although the tough, good-looking Dean has been long gone, his fans return to Kresmont 5 and Dime to drink beer, reminisce and learn some truths about the old gang.

It runs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 14 at Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave. Batavia Players plans to offer more viewings of its shows as a way to accommodate those that can’t always make it during the debut weekend.

A native of Kentucky, Grimble’s southern accent came in handy not only for her portrayal of Mona but for others to mimic. The scenes capture a simpler time in Texas during 1975. Some characters — store owner Juanita, Stella and Edna — are played by one actor each throughout the story, while Sissy, Mona and Joe are each played by an actor of the past and of the present.

Joanne, played by Kathy Johns of Stafford, isn’t fooled by anyone’s fake exterior as she has a grasp on who everyone really is. Mona is a chronic liar, which makes it hard for Joanne to contain her anger. One fib has been that James Dean fathered Mona’s boy Jimmy. That has been the biggest challenge for Johns in playing her character, though Joanne has held tightly to her own secrets over the years.

“She knows who everyone is but they don’t know who she is,” Johns says of her cryptic part. “There are three friends from the past and three friends from the present. There’s a lot of good stuff there. They were friends in high school and still love each other. It’s a great show, a lot of fun. I think the audience is going to be lured in.”

Her son Nash Johns is the only guy in the show. He plays Joe, who professes his love to Mona, played by Erin Stamp, back in 1955. Stamp’s character has an awkward encounter with a lovesick Joe before fleeing the five and dime. That relationship doesn’t work out as other surprises are revealed.

“You turn a corner and there’s a plot twist, it’s a huge audience teaser,” 16-year-old Nash said.

The set is quite rich in props, from canned goods and sundries at the front of the shop to a jukebox, Orange Crush soda machine, James Dean posters and a black-and-white checkered floor. It’s a collection of goods purchased from e-Bay, unearthed in someone’s vintage storage and, for Dorothy Gerhart, discovered in a family friend’s barn. She gladly loaned the 100-year-old Christmas lights which now hang alongside the walls of the Kresmont shop.

She likes how the show takes some time to undress before the audience.

“The first half you learn about the characters and the second half you learn the truth,” Gerhart said. “You will go through just about every emotion.”

Fair warning that this production is not for the faint of heart or young children. Sissy in the present, played by Wendy Williams, has a good time drinking, swearing and proudly displaying her top-heavy figure. It has brought back memories of when Williams acted in the same show years ago in Cleveland.

“Sissy is bold and brassy and in your face, but she’s the one who’s had the most trauma in her life,” Williams said. “That comes out in a monologue. She is very vulnerable. I’ve loved watching the old Sissy. You get to see her experiences come alive. It gave me a clue to who I am in the past.”

If it sounds confusing, it all shakes out on stage. While the current scene happens, those characters freeze for a flash peek at what was happening 20 years prior. It all gels for an ending that is ... you’ll have plenty of chances to catch a show and find out.

Tickets are $13 for general admission and $10 for students and senior citizens. They are available at the door or by calling (585) 703-4866.

The Daily News (2/11/2016)
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