Rialto Players to present Rex’s Exes

Carol Rolf Originally Published April 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 12, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Appearing in the Rialto Players production of Rex’s Exes are, seated, from left, Ruth Minick as Marlissa Crutchfield, Stephanie Koontz as Peaches Verdeen Belrose, Jonna Gibby as Gaynelle Verdeen, Casey Meyers as Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen and Lindell Roberts as Uncle Aubrey Verdeen; and back row, from left, Abigail Dangel as Mama Doll Hargis, Cindy Greene as Bitsy Hargis, Mary Wood as CeeCee Windham, Shane Atkinson as Theodore Rexford “Rex” Belrose, Rich Minick as Wild Bill Boudreaux, Desiree Phillips as Gentle Harmony and Coe Wilson as Aunt LaMerle Verdeen Minshaw.

The Rialto Players seem to love those Southern-friend comedies.

Up next for the local acting troupe is Rex’s Exes, which continues the saga of the Verdeen cousins who were introduced to the community last spring in The Red Velvet Cake War. This comedy is by authors Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who have written many of the plays the Rialto Players have presented.

Performances are set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. April 21 and again at 7 p.m. April 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. April 28. The April 27 performance will be a dinner theater, with serving to begin at 5:30 p.m. The dinner menu will be Tex-Mex Chicken with chipotle cream sauce, South of the Border rice, homemade refried beans, Star City salad, chips and salsa. Desserts will include Tres Leches Cake, Coconut Delight and Texas Chocolate Brownie Cake.

General admission tickets to all performances are $10 each; cost of the dinner is $15, so the total cost for the dinner theater is $25. Deadline to purchase tickets for the dinner is April 24; tickets for the dinner will not be available at the door. Tickets are available at the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce and online at rialtoartscenter.com.

The storyline of Rex’s Exes, which is set in Sweetgum, Texas, is as convoluted as any comedy by this trio of writers. Theater patrons will simply have to see it to believe it.

Rex’s Exes is under the direction of Jennifer DeGroot, who also directed The Red Velvet Cake War.

“It’s a fun cast,” she said, adding that the play is rated PG-13. “We have three new people and one is totally new to the stage. It’s always good to branch out and get some variety in our cast.”

New members of the cast appearing in recurring roles are:

• Mary Wood as the TV hostess CeeCee Windham.

Wood lives in Nimrod and works with her husband at SW Pallets and Sawmill and Homestead Farms.

She said she heard about the auditions and “it just sounded like it would be fun, and it has been.” Not totally unfamiliar with the Rialto Players, she served as stage manager for Dashing Through the Snow, another play by the same playwrights.

Wood describes her character in Rex’s Exes as “a little sassy, a little brassy.”

• Cindy Greene as the nosy neighbor, Bitsy Hargis.

Greene lives in Morrilton and works in the human resources department at Sykes Enterprises. She is no stranger to the stage as she appeared in productions at Morrilton High School, where she was president of the MHS Thespian Troupe. She also appeared with the Our Town Players, a precursor to the Rialto

Players.

She describes her character as “overbearing, a know-it-all and bossy.”

“My daughter (Abigail Dangel) plays my mother in the play,” she said with a laugh. “She’s a little feisty and likes to pick a fight.”

• Abigail Dangel, as Mama Doll Hargis, mother of Bitsy Hargis.

Dangel, also a daughter of Rick Dangel, is a junior at Morrilton High School where she is involved in dancing and sports. This is her first foray into acting.

“I play an 85-year-old woman,” she said with a laugh. “This is my first time to act. My mom told me we were going to try out for the play; we did, and we got the parts. I’m having fun with it. My character is a little high-strung.”

Revising their roles as members of the Verdeen family are:

• Jonna Gibby of Morrilton as Gaynelle Verdeen.

“God bless her,” Gibby said of her character. “She’s turning 50 and things are beginning to unravel. She thinks she’s too old.”

Gibby is director/family enrichment service worker at Perry Child Development Inc. Head Start.

• Stephanie Koontz of Morrilton as Peaches Verdeen Belrose.

Peaches enlists the help of cousin Jimmie Wyvette in planning a surprise birthday party for Gaynelle. But it turns out the surprise is on them when their efforts are changed to planning a funeral.

Koontz works for Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative in Plumerville.

• Casey Meyers of Perryville as Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen.

“I design wedding gowns for Texas-sized gals,” Meyers said of her character. “I own the Wide Bride boutique. I’m one of Rex’s exes; in fact, all three cousins are Rex’s exes.”

Meyers works for Tri Region Head Start in Russellville as a disability specialist. She also is helping with costumes for the play.

• Coe Wilson of Petit Jean Mountain as Aunt LaMerle Verdeen Minshaw.

“I like my part in this play,” said Wilson, who is a professional artist. “I’m the underdog. Everybody will be rooting for the underdog.”

• Lindell Roberts of Morrilton as Uncle Aubrey Verdeen.

“I’m always having fun with my characters,” said Roberts, who has been acting with community theater since 1982. “He’s a super senior at age 80 and hasn’t grown up. He still likes to chase women. He likes to torment LaMerle. The cousins all love him.”

Roberts also handles the lighting and sound maintenance for the theater.

Veteran Rialto Players assuming new characters in Rex’s Exes are:

• Ruth Minick of Russellville as Marlissa Crutchfield.

“I’m the Third Lady of Texas,” Minick said of her character with an exaggerated Southern drawl. Her character has come to town to render judgment on Jimmie Wy’s new business.

Minick has traveled and acted in community theater with her husband, Rich. She is employed at Grace Manufacturing in Russellville.

• Desiree Phillips of Conway as Alma Heater, better known as Gentle Harmony, the local psychic.

“My character hypnotizes Peaches to help her deal with the ghost of Rex,” Phillips said. “She also turns Aunt LaMerle into a monkey.”

Phillips is a family service worker for the Saline County Division of Children and Family Services.

• Rich Minick of Russellville as Wild Bill Boudreaux, a Cajun bounty hunter.

“Rex owes a loan shark, and he’s hiding out with these ladies,” Minick said.

“Wild Bill is also here to visit Wide Bride to get a dress for his girlfriend. He might be willing to trade Rex for the dress.”

Rich Minick has worked professionally in television and now works for Joshua’s Fine Jewelry in Russellville.

• Shane Atkinson of Morrilton as Theodore Rexford Belrose, Rex for short.

“I’m a ner-do-well who’s on the run because of poor life choices,” Atkinson said with a laugh. His most recent ex was Peaches, but it become known that he’s been married to the other two cousins as well.

Atkinson works in the information technology department at L’Oreal in North Little Rock. He has appeared in several Rialto productions and won a Best Actor award for his work in The Express Line, the 2009 Arkansas Community Theatre Association’s AACTfest competition.

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