Uproarious comedy paints a vivid picture of a dysfunctional family coming together for the funeral of their patriarch 

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe closes its 2016-2017 season with Dearly Departed, which runs April 19 – May 27, 2017. In this delightful and heartwarming comedy written by David Dean Bottrell and Jessie Jones, the dysfunctional Turpins gather in their rural Southern home for the patriarch’s funeral.

This 1991 work, set somewhere “south of the Mason-Dixon Line,” has an eccentric cast of characters, ranging from a none-too-grieving widow and a fire-breathing, Bible-toting sister to a trio of sons—one hard-drinking, one in prison, one facing financial ruin—and a junk food-devouring spinster named Delightful. While the play originally centered on a white family, the 2001 movie based on the play, Kingdom Come, starred black stars such as Whoopie Goldberg, LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett Smith and Cedric the Entertainer, among others.

WBTT is excited to announce that playwright Bottrell will participate in a special talk-back after the matinee on Sunday, May 7. He will also lead an audition workshop for local performers the evening of Monday, May 8.

While WBTT has featured comedy in numerous productions, this is its first all-out comedic effort.

“When I first read this script, I laughed until it hurt!” said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs. “I have always wanted WBTT to present a solid comedic play but hadn’t found one that was as clever and funny as Dearly Departed. Relatives who drive each other crazy – and love each other to pieces – come in all colors. Despite all of the laughs and irreverent moments, there are also some real moments of heart to this story.” 

Cast members include Troupe familiar faces Earley Dean (Royce), Brian Boyd (Bud/Ray-Bud), Ashley Brooks (Lucille), Dee Selmore (Raynelle), Michael Kinsey (Reverend Hooker), Patric Robinson (Norval/Clyde) and Lonnetta Gaines (Veda/Juanita). New to WBTT for this production is Ian Fermy (Junior), Cindy De La Cruz (Suzanne), and Kourtney McLaughlin (Nadine/Delightful). Audiences will enjoy a special treat as Jacobs gets back into a dress for the role of the deceased’s Bible-thumping sister Marguerite – it’s a real drag!

Director Harry Bryce serves as an artistic associate for the Cumberland County Playhouse, the largest and oldest professional regional theater in Tennessee, where he has directed numerous productions over the past 11 years. This is his ninth show with WBTT. The crew includes: James E. Dodge III, production manager; Juanita Munford, production stage manager; Michael Newton-Brown, scenic design; Cristy Owen, costume design; Michael Pasquini, lighting design; Daniel Granke, fight director; and Annette Breazeale, property master.

“We are confident that the themes of the show are universal enough to resonate with diverse audiences,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “Although it was written with a dysfunctional Southern family in mind, some of the characters may resemble people we each know and love. Usually, our patrons leave the theater dancing and singing – we hope this show will have them laughing and thinking about both the zaniness and warmth in their own families.”

Performances, which take place at the WBTT theater (1646 10th Way, Sarasota) are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $39.50/adults, $22/students and active military with valid ID. Call the Box Office (941-366-1505) or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.