By Sheri Berger
Olde Glory Theatre, Wednesday, July 22, 2022
Quirky but quaint Marianne Dollefson comes up with a wacky idea to make her husband, John, feel better about turning 50. John sits around in a funk, complaining to his wife and their neighbors that his 50th birthday is coming up and he is old and failing, and doesn’t have friends anymore. Their neighbors, Russ and Jackie Westmore, don’t take offense to his moanings. Jackie mentions that the last funeral she attended was filled with people from all over the country and she felt the deceased would have loved to have seen everyone. The light bulb goes off inside Marianne’s head, and she decides that instead of a surprise birthday party, she will plan a surprise funeral party for him instead.
In reality, the idea isn’t completely new. Living funerals, also known as a “living wake” have been around for awhile, apparently taking large notice in 1993 when actress Takiko Mizunoe in Japan held a living funeral. At the time, the Japanese society was having conversations about the elderly over-burdening their children with their care. They began to make the “living wake” into a celebration, and the idea soon spread to South Korea and Britain. For some, a living funeral provides some closure to their life and their terminal illness or old age. They take time to forgive others, talk about their life and feelings about it and relive happy memories as they celebrate their life in a happier way than a traditional funeral. When a person does pass on, then, the only thing the family has left to do is the burial and not have to fuss with a full wake and funeral and the decisions surrounding those events.
But in this shorter play, Let Him Sleep ‘Til It’s Time for His Funeral, John is not really in that bad of health, and his wacky wife thinks it’s an amazing idea, and she is ready to spend a lavish amount of money, complete with a casket and all the trimmings. The trick is to get John out of the house for a few days so she can put it all together. Combined with some drama about her daughter and a writing contest they both want to enter for money, the story proceeds into some very funny moments. It has a little bit of a sitcom vibe, like something out of Three’s Company where someone hears just a bit of what another person says and suddenly, they have the wrong idea about what it means and chaos ensues. The actors displayed great timing and rhythm in dialogue to produce the laughs where they land in the script.
Director and UNL Student Rory Nolan shows his directorial talents in this production. He is a familiar face and a talented asset to Olde Glory Theatre. The theater itself, built in 1872 as a church, was renovated in 2013. It’s beautiful inside, and boasts some beautiful woodwork and is welcoming and warm. Speaking of welcoming, patrons were also welcomed by theater volunteer JoAnn Boshart, who runs their tickets and marketing and I believe wears many hats when it comes to making the theater run so well.
All of the cast did a great job with their characters and their lines, and knew how to play to the crowd, which this play and the crowd is well-suited for. Justin Baldinger played John, and I suspect had to undergo some personal transformation for this role. He brought the right amount of cynicism and curmudgeonliness to his character. Theatre veteran Megan Boggs played John’s wacky but loving wife, Marianne. Megan did a great job with her character, and I would guess is the one character who had to stay on stage the most. I would have loved to have seen her character be just a bit more quirky, but she played the character very believably and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Neighbors and friends Russ and Jackie Westmore were played by Angela Kaspar and Jonathan Lobmeyer, both Olde Glory Theatre stage veterans. Angela’s style of delivering her lines gave me some flashbacks to 1960’s tv sitcoms, and she did a great job of living in that era with her character. Jonathan’s character was a fun fishing buddy for John and he brought some funny moments for them both. Holly Venetis plays Elizabeth, the moody but kind teenage daughter of John and Marianne. Holly’s challenge with this character was having to turn on and off crying abruptly, but she did it well. And last, but certainly not least, Director Rory Nolan played the small part of Mr. Jansen. Rory has a very nice presence on stage and I’m happy he filled in for this small part.
The Sound and Lighting was done by Malachi Miller. The lavish but effective Set Design was done by Denise Christiansen. It was fun during intermission checking out all of the knick-knacks on stage that reminded me of my relatives’ homes growing up. Set and Prop Construction was done by Zeb Barta, Philip Dani, Denise Christiansen, Bill Edwards, and JoAnn Boshart. Costumes were done by JoAnn Boshart, Denise Christiansen and the Cast.
Olde Glory Theatre is located in the quaint town of Seward, Nebraska, just a short drive west of Lincoln. There are concessions at the show, so bring some cash. And if you are lucky enough to get a ticket for this weekend, on Friday and Saturday evenings Olde Glory has Dinner shows, where they serve dinner at 6:30PM and on Sundays it’s a Dessert Matinee with dessert served at 1:30PM. All seats are at small tables which I admit is one of my favorite ways to watch a show with friends, so having food is super easy with this arrangement and it’s yet another charming aspect of this theater.
If you go: Remaining shows are June 23-26th. Thursday the show begins at 7PM. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:15PM, and on Sunday, the show begins at 2PM. Check their ticket page for availability of dinner or dessert and times before the show.
Olde Glory Theatre is located at 348 Jackson Avenue, Seward, Nebraska. Their phone number is 402-304-5392. You may purchase tickets online at https://oldeglorysewardne.com and their presence on Facebook is up-to-date at https://www.facebook.com/OldeGlorySeward/ .
Sheri Berger is a business minion, dog momma, arts groupie, and co-host of the Platte River Bard Podcast with her husband, Chris Berger.
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