NORMAN — Sometimes the pearls of wisdom come in unlikely places — from children, parents and friends, even politicians. An Oklahoma City councilman once told me that although he wasn’t moved to commit murder, he often read the morning’s obituaries and smiled.
The saying wasn’t original but the line has stuck with me through the years. Much like the line delivered by trailer park trash queen Tess Doolin (played by Kathy Nees) in her most collective jab at the Sooner Theatre Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre audience Thursday night. “Even dead, I’m better than all of you all.”
That was just one line of many that turned the audience against Tess from the show’s beginning. You guessed it — she dies a mysterious death and the audience has the job of figuring out the killer in “Death in a DoubleWide,” written by city parks planner and perennially frustrated thespian James Briggs. Director was Jody White. Terri Nevin Hesselroth served as choreographer. It’s rated “R” for language and innuendo, but mostly R for redneck.
The annual murder mystery supporting the Sooner Theatre programs opened Thursday and continues tonight at The Railhouse, 102 W. Eufaula. Tickets to the event are $75 each or $600 for a table of eight.
It’s community theater at its best. During breaks on stage, the cast works the room for tips (for the Sooner, of course) in exchange for clues. This year’s cast includes some regular performers, but there’s a handful of first-timers testing the stage and the country music microphone. At the end of the evening, those audience members who have correctly guessed the killer’s identity are entered into a drawing to win a pair of season tickets to the Sooner’s theatrical season, Sooner Stage Presents.
Newcomer Nees plays the abrasive redneck, wrongly drawing disability and playing the lottery while her faithful-as-a-birddog husband Harvey (Steven White) works three-and-a-half jobs to support her. Disabled or not, she manages to belt out “Redneck Woman,” while her Christmas lights twinkle on the doublewide in the background.
Trailer park manager Leona Crutchfield (Marles Bradley) and her sister and night manager Summer Wirth (Leasa Stewart) have to deal with more drama, bumps, grinds and Red Solo Cups than they bargained for when Tess is found dead. The question isn’t who would have wanted Tess dead. The question is who wouldn’t.
Besides insulting the audience, Tess alienates most of the rest of the beer-drinking cast, which includes Tucky Rollins (Jody White), Starla Ketchum (Kerrie Brinkman White), Betty Jones (Jolly Brown Pugh), Mr. B. (Mark Krittenbrink), Reggie “Mud Dawg” Maxwell, (James Briggs), Katie F. Udall, (Charlene Bradley), and Detective Wadsack, (Thressa Guidice). Dancers included Karena Crawford, Nanny Coggins and Shaye Donica.
Musicians include Melissa Griffith Edgemon, Kurt Snodgrass, Bobby Carmen, John Sumida and Rick Byrd. Tracy Stewart served as production manager and Brandon Adams served as stage manager. Sponsors include Sooner Legends Banquet & Catering, Arvest Bank, Bobby Carmen, DDS, The Hall At The Railhouse, Republic Bank & Trust, Valliance Bank, BancFirst, Cleveland County Abstract, Tom Cooper and Beth Pepper, Sean & Angela Crandall and Eide Bailly.
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