TR Robertson ….Perhaps a better title for the latest play on stage at Broadway Vista would be “With Friends like This Who Needs Enemies?” A seemingly simple story of a group of high school friends from McCarthy, Texas, returning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of James Dean’s death, meeting at the 5 & Dime store they used to frequent for the meeting of their club, “The Disciples of James Dean”. But nothing is simple about these friends. Theirs is a story of change and no change in their lives. Playwright Ed Graczyk’s play opened in 1976 at the Players’ Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, leading to a short run in 1980 in New York City. It was later adapted into a film in 1982, directed by Robert Altman and starring Sandy Dennis, Cher and Karen Black, cast members from the New York City play.
Kimberly Wooldridge, as Juanita the owner of the 5 & Dime, says it best in one of her closing lines in the play, “I hope you found what you came here looking for.” Even though
Juanita is speaking to Joanne played by Renetta Lloyd, she could have said it to each and every one of the women at the reunion. These “friends” all have something to hide that they have not shared with the others, although many of them have begun to figure out what these secrets are. Kimberly plays the surly Dime store owner to perfection with a spot on West Texas drawl. She and Renetta are veterans of Broadway Vista performances. Renetta’s character has one of the biggest secrets of all which will come out like a ton of bricks in Act II.
Brooke McCormick, making her debut at Broadway Vista, plays Mona, one of the founders of The Disciples of James Dean. She also has a secret she has been living with, but the interesting fact is within that secret she has been living a lie. She seems to be a lost soul now, constantly in a bit of a daze, obsessing over the location of her son Jimmy, who she keeps telling others is mentally challenged. This will play a key turning point in Act II. One of the twists of the play is the mixing of time periods with flash back scenes. Throughout the play we will see young Mona, played by Michelle Marie Trester, founder of the Disciples of James Dean; along with best friends Sissy, played by Emily Candia, and Joe, played by Jimmy Masterson. They take us back to 1955 and how this all started. This is Michelle’s first play at Broadway Vista and a return performance for Jimmy. Young Mona’s friends know the real truth of Mona’s secret. Sissy has remained in the Texas town all these years, while Joe has gone through a life
changing experience. Older Sissy is played by Erica Marie Weisz, a veteran actress of many Southern California stages. She plays the loud, outgoing, tell-it-like–it-is Sissy, with exuberance and emotion. She dreams big, thinking she has a shot at the Ice Capades, and seems to have put behind her a serious medical issue she had to deal with earlier in her life. Sissy will even play a role in Juanita discovering the truth about her deceased husband, Sydney. Another one of Mona’s loud, over-the-top friends is Stella May and if we believe her, the most successful member of the group. But again, is she really? Stella May is played by Heidi Bridges who gave a wonderful performance as Margie in the lead role of “Good People” at Scripps Ranch Theatre. The final member of the Disciples of James Dean is the mild, meek Edna. Edna is pregnant with her 7th child and is the brunt of many put down comments from Stella May and other group members, but she takes everything as though she deserves what is said about her. Edna is played by Julia Giolzetti, recently arriving in San Diego after living the past 12 years in New York City. Interestingly, Julia is really pregnant as she plays this role.
As the story unfolds, we here various tales of the time James Dean was in McCarthy for the filming of the movie “Giant”, in 1955. Mona and her friends began the fan club then and Mona was selected to play a townsperson in the movie. The aura of James Dean being in the town, the love these women have for the movie star, and how Joe fits into all of this will play out in the climatic
final scenes. It is hard to imagine these women have remained friends as they bring up past memories, both good and bad, that have had an effect on each of them. The confrontations they bring out, the dreams they think might become part of their lives, the delusions they are living, the disappointments they all have experienced and the love they have for one another are brought out by a great cast under the direction of veteran director Kathy Brombacher. Ms. Brombacher is the Founding Artistic Director of Moonlight Stage Production.
Tickets for Broadway vista are available at www.broadwayvista.com or call 760-806-7905. “Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” plays until May 21st. Downtown Historic Vista’s newest parking lot is now open directly across from Broadway Vista.