Texas town in jeopardy in Merely Players' farcical 'Southern Hospitality'

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
Merely Players will stage "Southern Hospitality" beginning Thursday.

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Fayro, Texas, is in trouble, and it's up to a prolifically married hellcat, a young woman in a cow costume, a man with a joke arrow through his head and other assorted nuts to save it.

That's the situation at the heart of Southern Hospitality, a comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten that's the summer production of acting troupe Merely Players. The play will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Amarillo College Experimental Theatre on the Washington Street campus. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students, seniors and AC faculty and staff. Call 806-371-5359.

In the play, part of a trilogy that also includes Dearly Beloved and Christmas Belles, folks are leaving the town in droves following the closing of a rendering plant and the Super SmartMart. In step the Futrelle sisters — particularly Honey Raye (played by Cindi Bulla).

"Truthfully, the thing that's occupying her mind the most is that she's running out of men to date. They're all leaving town!" Bulla said.

Honey Raye reluctantly teams up with her nemesis, Geneva Musgrave (Sandra Pelfrey), to help attract a salsa manufacturing plant, spinning a web of lies about how Fayro is a thriving town and concocting a "Fayro Days" celebration, complete with a pet costume parade, a beauty pageant and a Civil War battle reenactment.

Honey Raye (Cindi Bulla) explains her plan to Justin (Hayden Pedigo) and Gina Jo (L'Hannah Pedigo) in Merely Players' "Southern Hospitality.Honey Raye (Cindi Bulla) explains a plan to Justin (Hayden Pedigo) and Gina Jo (L'Hannah Pedigo) in Merely Players' "Southern Hospitality."

To pull off the con, Honey Raye ropes in her sisters — Frankie (Jackie Sorenson Llewellyn), Twink (Stacy Yates) and Rhonda Lynn (Robin Downs), their husbands and their children.

"All four sisters are struggling in their own ways — with business, with family," said director Bo James Kemp. "But they have to pull out all the stops and make up this 'Fayro Days' celebration, and comedy ensues."

The farcical humor should remind audiences of other Southern comedies like The Dixie Swim Club (also by the trio of authors) and the comedic portions of plays like Steel Magnolias, cast members said. And, even more so, it should remind them of home, Downs said.

"It mentions Amarillo, Toot'n Totum, Wiley Hicks — they know this area," she said.

The acting troupe — formed 21 years ago by a handful of longtime Amarillo actors — only stages a couple of shows a year, saving their big productions for the summer, when (theoretically) its members have more free time.

Rhonda Lynn (Robin Downs) is skeptical of her sister's plans in "Southern Hospitality."Rhonda Lynn (Robin Downs) is skeptical of her sister's plans in "Southern Hospitality."

Cast members Bulla, Robin Downs and husband Monty Downs (who plays Dub Dubberly), Pelfrey, Yates and Brent McFarland (who plays John Curtis Buntner) are original or long-time members of the troupe.

"It's just rare that all of us can reunite," Bulla said.

"Some of my favorite people are in this show," Robin Downs said. "Brent McFarland — he just makes me laugh, no matter what he's doing. I could name everybody (in the show), and there's a reason they're here. They all embody the spirit of Merely Players — let's play, let's have fun."

Bulla said she is enjoying working, too, with "the new talent — who sooner rather than later will be Merely Players."

That includes Kemp, who's making his directorial debut with the troupe, and actors like Llewellyn.

"It's wonderful," Llewellyn said. "They have a lot of experience in the theater. it's fun to talk with other theater lovers because you get to share experiences and compare notes. And they know what they're doing, so we have a lot of fun."

"It's a blast — a total blast — working with every single one of them," Kemp said.

Honey Raye (Cindi Bulla, center) needs help from Frankie (Jackie Sorenson Llewellyn) and Dub (Monty Downs) in "Southern Hospitality."Honey Raye (Cindi Bulla, center) needs help from Frankie (Jackie Sorenson Llewellyn) and Dub (Monty Downs) in "Southern Hospitality."


Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.

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