Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, a 1976 play by Ed Graczyk, opened on the Chapel Street Players’ stage Friday night (Apr 22nd). Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, tells the story of an all-female fan club called the Disciples of James Dean who meet at the H. L. Kressmont & Company five-and-dime in McCarthy, Texas. Spanning some 20-years, the play is slightly bizarre and somewhat banal with the disciples fulfilling a promise to meet in 1975 to commemorate Dean’s untimely death, then reaching back to 1955 for their backstory, then flip-flopping back and forth through time to advance the story in a mélange of confessions, obsessions, and surprises. This production, directed ably by Michelle Cullen, stars Carol Van Zoeren, Pam Huxtable, Danielle Cathcart, Michelle Opalesky, Nicole Pierce, Alex Bock, Kathleen Kimber, Cindy Starcher, and Kelley Bielewicz.
At first glance, Jimmy Dean’s two main themes, feminism and sexuality, might seem a bit dated. In 1976, Jimmy Dean was, in part, an attempt to explore the way women were forced to suppress their emotions and personalities in order to be accepted by the male-dominated society around them. In many ways, despite our society’s supposed evolution, we are, still not very advanced. On the play’s sexuality issues, it’s interesting to note the connection Jimmy Dean makes between the oppression of women and patriarchy’s dread of sexual deviation and gender ambiguity. Society still struggles with this 46-years later. To say anymore on this subject would spoil a surprise, but watch the play and see if you don’t agree.
In the role of Juanita, the waitress at the H. L. Kressmont & Company five-and-dime, Carol Van Zoeren is tasked with serving up exposition along with bottles of Orange Crush, but she manages to make the former as satisfying as the orange soda pop she doles out. Pam Huxtable portrays an compassionate, dutiful Mona which makes her character’s shocking revelations so riveting. Danielle Cathcart as Mona (Then) and Nicole Pierce as Sissy (Then) quite ably symbolized the hope for the future while also sowing the seeds of sorrow. Michelle Opalesky’s mature Sissy probably embodies that promise (curse?) best with a desperate audacity that can’t quite mask her scars-both emotional and physical. Alex Bock’s Joe is the tragically tortured teenage boy from the past whose haunting presence is still felt years into the future. As Joanne, Kathleen Kimber is mysterious and vengeful. Her life has changed most over the past twenty years, but that won’t be revealed ‘til late in the second act. Cindy Starcher plays the brassy, but slightly tarnished Stella May with great panache and is part of a sort of amusing, dysfunctional odd couple, the second half being the faintly glowing and irrepressible Edna Louise played adeptly by Kelley Bielewicz.
Brian M. Touchette’s impressive set design and the inspired set decoration by Scott F. Mason’s F-ervecent Productions, LLC deserves mention here. The set is as much a character as any of the human characters with its old school Woolworth-inspired design, James Dean memorabilia, hodge-podge of holiday décor, and its collection of vintage dime store bric-a-brac. Touchette, Mason, and the set builders/decorators do an amazing job, creating and decorating the sets for the small CSP stage. Successful stage productions owe their success to talented behind the scenes team members as much as to the directors and the actors onstage and so it is with this production’s lighting, sound, and set design.
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean runs through April 30th. Reserve your tickets today by calling the theater box office at (302) 368-2248 or by visiting https://chapelstreetplayers.org/.
photo credit: Peter Kuo Photography