Feb 11, 2016
BATAVIA â 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.
âI was always behind the scenes. This has been on my bucket list,â she said in a faint Kentucky drawl. âIt has been amazing. Iâm 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.â
Despite her characterâs somber demeanor, Grimble described the show, âCome Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,â 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 canât always make it during the debut weekend.
A native of Kentucky, Grimbleâs 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 â store owner Juanita, Stella and Edna â 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, isnât fooled by anyoneâs 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 Monaâs 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.
âShe knows who everyone is but they donât know who she is,â Johns says of her cryptic part. âThere are three friends from the past and three friends from the present. Thereâs a lot of good stuff there. They were friends in high school and still love each other. Itâs a great show, a lot of fun. I think the audience is going to be lured in.â
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. Stampâs character has an awkward encounter with a lovesick Joe before fleeing the five and dime. That relationship doesnât work out as other surprises are revealed.
âYou turn a corner and thereâs a plot twist, itâs a huge audience teaser,â 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. Itâs a collection of goods purchased from e-Bay, unearthed in someoneâs vintage storage and, for Dorothy Gerhart, discovered in a family friendâs 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.
âThe first half you learn about the characters and the second half you learn the truth,â Gerhart said. âYou will go through just about every emotion.â
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.
âSissy is bold and brassy and in your face, but sheâs the one whoâs had the most trauma in her life,â Williams said. âThat comes out in a monologue. She is very vulnerable. Iâve 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.â
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 ... youâll 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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