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No nostalgia trip

IPFW Department of Theatre presents Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2015-02-19


Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean takes place in a dusty five-and-dime store in the very small West Texas town of McCarthy. The year is 1975, and the occasion is the reunion of a James Dean fan club, the Disciples of James Dean, made up of three women, Juanita, Mona, and Sissy. Twenty years earlier, when the women were teenagers, actor James Dean had filmed his last movie, Giant, in the town of Marfa about an hour away, and one of the women, Mona, claims she was an extra on the set.

The IPFW Department of Theatre’s production of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean begins its run at the Williams Theatre on February 20. First produced at IPFW in 1983, the 2015 production stars Brooke O’Mara (Mona), Paige Matteson (Sissy), Becky Niccum (Juanita), and Laura Laudeman as Joanne, a seeming stranger to the three women who nevertheless turns out to share a past with them.

As any film buff can tell you, James Dean died before Giant was ever released. Though the actor’s body of work is very slim, it’s the image of James Dean that seems the most enduring, like something frozen in time or preserved in amber. McCarthy, Texas and the James Dean fan club seem just as stuck in the past, but for them, the passage of time has brought its usual dissolution. By 1975, all that’s left of the set of Giant is the flimsy, weather-beaten façade of the Benedict’s mansion, leaning up against a telephone pole in a desolate stretch of Texas land.

And that’s not the only thing in Come Back… that has seen far better days. There’s an air of “things fading away” over the entire story; even the five-and-dime the women meet up in is a Woolworth’s, a famous staple of Main Street, Anytown USA that is slowly on its way out. Dr. Beverly Redman of IPFW’s Department of Theatre and the director of Come Back… points out that in the story’s flashbacks to 1955, it’s raining; in the present, the town is enduring a long drought. “It makes a good metaphor for the characters,” she says. “They’re in a drought, metaphorically speaking.”

They’ve also all got something they’re hiding, especially Mona, the one who claims she was an extra on the set of Giant and the one who called the reunion. “This young woman basically told a whopping lie,” Redman says. “Rather than face what’s happened, she tells this massive lie and continues to perpetrate it up to the present day.”

There’s something outrageous about the characters in Come Back… that gives the play a lot of its comedy. “It’s a trait you see in many southern writers, a fascination with ‘grotesques,’ these exaggerated characters,” Redman says. “There’s always tremendous pathos, passion, and fear to the point of serious neurosis. I think once you start going to the weaknesses of the brain and the weaknesses of the body, these characters become ‘characters’.”

So while that element of Come Back… can make the play veer towards comedy, Redman says that it’s essentially a dramatic piece. While there’s a sense that these characters need to “move on” from that night 20 years ago when they learned James Dean had died — in fact, some would love to “move on” — Mona in particular really needs to move on. “The people who answer the invitation to the reunion are the people who are ready to settle that past,” Redman says. “But Mona has a problem. She seems to see and talk to people who aren’t really there. I think that where the other people there are having memories, Mona seems to be having memories that verge on psychosis.”

To reveal anymore about Mona or the other characters would venture into spoiler territory. But while Mona’s “memories” threaten to do real harm, and the other characters can come across as somewhat outrageous, Come Back… seems to have a lot of sympathy and respect for the need these women have to come together and reminisce. As Redman writes in her director’s notes like all reunions we attend by choice and not obligation, the characters quest to retrieve things they’ve lost and present images that do not match their interiors. … we can, I hope, all sympathize with the specters that arise before us when we remember our pasts and long for return, not only to the others that shared our space for a time but for the self that once was.”

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IPFW Department of Theatre presents Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

February 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.
February 22, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Sign Language Interpreted Performance – Saturday, February 21, 2015

Williams Theatre
IPFW North Campus

$5 IPFW Students/ High School Students/Children Under 18; $15 Adults; $13 Seniors/Faculty/Staff/Alumni; $11 Groups of 10 or More; $10 Other College students with ID
Mature subject matter. Children under 6 will not be admitted.

Patrons are encouraged to call in advance to reserve their tickets. Please arrive early. Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of management or at intermission.

IPFW Box Office
Purchase Tickets Online at ipfw.edu/tickets

Purchase Tickets by Phone or in Person: 260-481-6555
TTD: 260-481-4105
Box office located in the Gates Athletic Center, Room 126, Mon – Fri, 12:30 – 6:30 p.m.

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