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Coastal Stage Productions howls into 5th season in Port Royal with riotous ‘Hallelujah Girls’

The cast of “The Hallelujah Girls,” staged by Port Royal’s Coastal Stage Productions, from left: Mark Erickson, Christine Grefe, Bill Dalton, Debra Reier, Julie Seibold, Margy Oehlert, Carol Miller, and Kelley Gray.
The cast of “The Hallelujah Girls,” staged by Port Royal’s Coastal Stage Productions, from left: Mark Erickson, Christine Grefe, Bill Dalton, Debra Reier, Julie Seibold, Margy Oehlert, Carol Miller, and Kelley Gray. Submitted

“The Hallelujah Girls,” a riotous play staged by Port Royal’s Coastal Stage Productions, opened last Friday night, and we, in the audience, laughed and laughed through this brilliantly performed and enormously entertaining Southern comedy.

The two-act play, which completes its run on April 7, is written by well-known playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. Their script will keep you chuckling, chortling, even howling through the night.

The spot-on performances by the outstanding and familiar ensemble cast of Coastal Stage, is simply top-drawer. The entire evening is tightly wired to offer the audience little time to laugh at the amazing repartee, take a deep breath, then listen carefully, as they prepare for the next one-liner and accompanying rejoinder.

The action offers the most entertaining look at six middle-ageish women dealing with their responses to the twists and turns of growing older — and the wisdom they have or have not gained over all of these years.

They have gathered every Friday at the SPA DE DAH! beauty parlor in Eden Falls, Georgia, for the usual hairdos, manicures and facials, but more importantly, to consider, together, what they know, what they don’t know, what they wish that they knew ... and ... what, if anything, they are planning to do about it.

We meet five of them, as they are recalling the impact of the passing of their friend Vonda Joyce. Each speaks lovingly and graciously, in her special, Southern way, so in no time, we not only have met these amazing ladies, but have begun to note her personal challenges, and to laugh with them as they are carefully considered.

Carlene Travis (Christine Grefe) is called the black widow because she has outlived three husbands, all of whom died under unusually strange circumstances. You won’t be surprised when I tell you that she is having trouble meeting up with a potential husband number four.

Mavis Flowers (Margy Oehlert) is distracted because she feels that her husband is no longer interested in her. Her approach to solving her concern has not been roundly supported by the folks of Eden Falls.

Crystal Hart (Carol Miller,) is a total piece of work. She has had several near-death experiences, which happened at particular holidays ... so to say she celebrates these events in the most memorable way would be the understatement of the year.

Nita Mooney (Debra Reier), who has little self-confidence, and is clearly bullied by her son who constantly takes advantage of her kindness, resorts to living vicariously through the plots of romance novels.

Bunny Sutherland (Kelley Gray) is the evil force in this incredible gathering of women. She has an ego the size of the church in which SPA DE DAH! is set, and her goal in life is simply to put her name on everything in town, no matter who suffers as a result of her vicious, nasty, aggressive behaviors.

Sugar Lee Thompkins (Julie Seibold) is the power behind SPA DE DAH! She has created this incredible beauty parlor and meeting place, which is housed in an important old church. She is determined to take everything about SPA DE DAH! to another level.

The two men who figure in this powerful women’s show are the sensitive, it turns out, Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt (Bill Dalton) and Porter Padgett (Mark Erickson). The two are sympathetic and funny, and I chuckle to myself, even a day or so later, as visions of these “heroes” rush through my memory.

In a triumph of understatement, I have to say ... what a show ... as the juxtaposition of the characters to whom I have introduced you, and the amazing circumstances to which they must adjust, meet head on, at the SPA DEE DAH!

“The Hallelujah Girls” is the first play in the new season of Coastal Stage Productions, and the producers and the familiar and polished ensemble cast, all volunteers, are simply outstanding.

Directed by Alex Clark and Luke Cleveland, with costumes by Madeline Howard, set design and building by Rodney Vaughn and Bill Dalton, stage management by Mark Erickson, lighting by Rodney Vaughn, sound by Jayme Brinson, and house management by Michele Clark, the entertaining flow of the evening as we meet and get to know these incredible characters will keep you on the edge of your chair, taking in and absorbing every well-directed line of this risible, uproarious Southern comedy.

If you go

What: “The Hallelujah Girls” from Coastal Stage Productions.

When: April 5-7. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Saturday matinee added to meet demand.

Where: AMVETS Banquet Hall, 1831 Ribaut Road, Port Royal.

More information: coastalstageproductions.com; coastalstageproductions@gmail; 843-717-2175.

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