Review: ‘Southern Hospitality’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater

Aldersgate Church Community Theater presents Southern Hospitality, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. Eddie Page directs this outlandish comedy about a band of people who are desperate to save their small town from bankruptcy. When a golden opportunity arises, they scramble to organize a last-minute festival in hopes of boosting their appeal – and find themselves in some bizarre circumstances while doing so.

Edye Smith (Rhonda Lynn), Kacie Greenwood (Honey Raye), and Melissa Dunlap (Twink) in ‘Southern Hospitality.’ Photo by Liz Albro.

The show begins with a peek into several (failing) businesses in Fayro, Texas, where the citizens are struggling to make ends meet. Geneva (Kate Ives), is on the verge of closing down her flower shop when she discovers that a successful salsa factory is looking to relocate, with Fayro on the list of contending cities. This opportunity would bring hundreds of jobs, giving the small town a direly needed economic boost and essentially saving them from falling right off the map (“Fayro’s not the end of the Earth, but you sure could see it from here!”) She brings this information to the Futrelle sisters, and Honey Raye (Kacie Greenwood), the president of the Chamber of Commerce, takes the tip and runs with it. Actually, you could say she leaps, dives, and flies with it!

When a company representative from the salsa factory plans a trip to Fayro, Honey Raye gets overexcited and makes several unrealistic promises. She tells them that on the very weekend of the rep’s visit, the town just happens to be throwing a lavish festival, with a large number of attractions, including a petting zoo, beauty pageant, and a Civil War battle reenactment (despite the fact that there were no documented battles in Fayro). Everyone comes together to make try and this festival a reality, using what (very) little time and resources they have.

Organizing an entire town festival in four days is a tall enough order, and in addition, the sisters all have personal hardships that require their time and attention. Frankie Dubberly (Christine Tankersley) must transform her home into a “Bed and Breakfast,” while also wrangling rambunctious twin boys and a husband who is smack in the middle of a mid-life crisis (Cal Whitehurst plays Dub Dubberly, whose antics get a lot of laughs).

Expansive and detailed, the setting, designed by Eddie Page and painted by De Nicholson-Lamb, looks realistic enough to live in. Frankie’s sister Twink (Melissa Dunlap) is consumed with planning her wedding, her daughter Gina Jo (Mandi Ellis) is in the throes of marital problems, and Dub’s evil Aunt Iney (Janice Zucker) has announced an unexpected visit.

Christine Tankersley ( Frankie), Kacie Greenwood (Honey Raye), Edye Smith (Rhonda Lynn), and Milissa Dunlap (Twink). Photo by Liz Albro.

If you think this all sounds a bit chaotic, keep in mind that I’ve only mentioned a few elements of the story. The plot is jam-packed, akin to multiple spinning plates in the air -and just as delicate. It is meant to be overwhelming, but I personally found it to be too overwhelming, to the point where it became hard to stay engaged. This is a very specific kind of humor that tends to be polarizing, and it’s not everyone’s taste. The overall performances could use polishing as well, but it was clear that the actors were all enjoying themselves, with an excitement that’s infectious.

Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s Southern Hospitality is a whirlwind of a show – chaotic and bizarre, you’ll find yourself either enthralled by the bedlam or ready for the curtain to close. Either way, it’s a night you won’t soon forget.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Southern Hospitality plays through July 28, 2019, at Aldersgate Church Community Theater, 1301 Collingwood Road, Alexandria, VA. Purchase tickets online.