A new Hot Mess project.
Over the last week I traveled twice for student film shoots. Once to Tucson & once to Flagstaff. Both quick and easy day trips that took four hours round trip that make you realize, we are not as far from the rest of the world as we may think. The sights are gorgeous and you can’t beat an Arizona Sky. As for the on camera experiences, hmm – one was a phenomenal experience and one was eh? Both were learning experiences and had completely different feelings of interest in the work. Needless to say, happy to have had the opportunities but still on the fence about what it all means. As an actor, I recognize my journey being confusing. In 2018, I was sure I wanted to do more and I did, but what I experienced made me more confused. As I tried to gain momentum with auditions & seeking an agent, I find the static moments drive me to question my intention, my ability to stay focused. I have become very undisciplined as an actor, not doing the work, not seeking the challenges and unwillingness to dedicate the time. On the other end, I am writing more and I have returned to improvisation with a vigor, trying to regain my confidence and status on stage among my peers, in my community. Recognizing more how to meld my improvisors mind with my newly honed acting skills and excited to show off my talent in that regard. This is a great thing, as recent events & pathways of life have created an odd cliff of this life’s focus. A recognition of letting go and moving forward, at first, to do so meant letting go of my commitment to improv in Phoenix as a leader, creator and community facilitator. I have certainly recognized that I have a knack for management and as such, I got under the thumb of being a producer, juggling multiple hats and eventually neglecting the artist in me. It’s hard at this time in life, near 40 to decide I want to be an artist, let alone unsure what kind, someway, somehow. I can create, but sharing is where I fall short… This is where I get over that, this platform, the internet, building our own websites, gives us a voice, whether people find it interesting or not, it is a vulnerability, a start at that which makes us individual artists worthy of recognition.
I was in a play October/November of 2018 and got a review from Gil Benbrook. One day this experience and the affect it had on my life in all its gooey bits will be shared. For now. I am excited for 2019 and grateful for having a little more insight towards the greater goal (which is still under construction). .
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule
Tina Khalil, Shelly Boucher, and Jacque Arend
Photo by Carly Weekley
Playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten have crafted a fairly successful career out of their series of fun comedies that center on eccentric southern characters. While their The Red Velvet Cake War may not be as well constructed as some of their other comedies, TheaterWorks’ production features a cast who throw themselves into these wacky and outrageous characters with glee, including Jacque Arend who is superb as the frazzled Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen.
The plot centers around the members of the Verdeen family, including the three close cousins Gaynelle, Peaches, and Jimmie, as they face a series of obstacles. Gaynelle is on edge after she recently and “accidental” crashed her car into her husband’s girlfriend’s doublewide trailer and because of that incident could be declared insane. Fear of how that escapade has tarnished the family name has forced Aunt LaMerle to cancel the upcoming family reunion. But Peaches and Jimmie have a plan: if Gaynelle can successfully host the reunion surely that will prove she’s sane to the court-appointed psychologist who has been assigned to her case. When Aunt LaMerle gets wind of the cousins’ plan, it sets her tongue a-wagging. But Gaynelle has had enough of her aunt’s self-righteous attitude, so bets that not only can she pull the reunion off but that her red velvet cake will beat LaMerle’s prize-winning dessert in a taste test. With her house as the wager, Gaynelle has even bigger problems; she has no idea how to make a red velvet cake.
Jones, Hope and Wooten have come up with a fun and fast-paced plot with some very funny moments, but the silly sitcom style and over the top characters threaten to derail it at times. Fortunately, director Dominik Rebilas keeps the pace brisk and the comedy in check; in spite of it being broad, it never gets too unbelievable or out of control. He also ensures the entire cast are equipped for the farce-like second act in which the three doors on William Symington’s smart set are constantly in motion. The cast also look great in Whitney Tres’ costumes which deliver some big laughs, including the tight-fitting numbers for Peaches.
With an urgency in her line delivery and a rich Southern accent that resembles a young Holly Hunter at times, Jacque Arend has the right level of spunkiness and uncertainty to provide plenty of layers in her portrayal of the troubled Gaynelle. She also has expert comic timing and a deep sense of tenacity. Arend beautifully evokes this fragile, crazed and unpredictable woman who is at wit’s end. Shelly Boucher and Tina Khalil are hilarious, with humorous line delivery and good comic chips, as her two cousins, the sex-crazed, mortuary cosmetologist Peaches and the rough and tough, tomboyish, western wear store manager Jimmie. Arend, Boucher and Khalil also create characters that evoke a firm, close-knit sisterly relationship which ensures there is also plenty of heart and a realistic family bond portrayed in their performances.
In the supporting cast, Peter Cunniff is a hoot as the dim-witted, one-eyed suitor Newt, and Christy Welty is an absolute pain in the ass as Aunt LaMerle. Amanda Kei Glenn is full of fire as a feisty neighbor, and Peter J. Hart is humorous as the girl’s 90-year-old Uncle Aubrey, though you never once believe Hart is actually that old. Dan Clanton, Toni Jourdan, and Amber Ryan round out the cast.
The Red Velvet Cake War is an absurd, screwball comedy featuring outrageous characters and outlandish situations. It may not be a perfect comedy, but with a game cast and fast-paced direction, TheaterWorks’ production sure shows it can be a lot of fun.
The Red Velvet Cake War, through November 11, 2018, at TheaterWorks, 8355 West Peoria Avenue, Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at http://theaterworks.org or by calling 623-815-7930.
Director: Dominik Rebilas
Scenic Designer: William Symington
Lighting Designer: Annie Fair
Costume Designer: Whitney Tres
Hair and Make-Up Designer: Kim Nolan
Props Designer: Petey Swartz
Sound Designer: Matthew Sanders
Stage Manager: Jenn Goettertz
Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen: Jacque Arend
Peaches Verdeen Belrose: Shelly Boucher
Sheriff Grover Lout / Purvis Verdeen: Dan Clanton
Newt Blaylock: Peter Cunniff
Bitsy Hargis: Amanda Kei Glenn
Aubrey Verdeen: Peter J. Hart
Elsa Dowdall: Toni Jourdan
Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen: Tina Khalil
Cee Cee Windham / Mama Doll Hargis: Amber Ryan
LaMerle Verdeen Minshew: Christy Welty
My friend Rick was in town for a visit and I built this track so we could make these.