Steel palmettos


Rated 3.0 The Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre has revived Pensacola, a comedy-drama written by once-and-future Sacramento resident David Matthew Barnes. The Thistle Dew first staged the play back in the ’90s.You could give a thumbnail description of Pensacola by saying it’s a comedy-drama involving Southern women discussing their lives, dreams, clothes and cosmetics (à la Steel Magnolias), expanded through the addition of two male characters—a seemingly wayward husband and a handsome boyfriend, who is Cuban. The reaction of some of the women to an immigrant as love interest gives Pensacola a social slant that the all-white small-town characters of Steel Magnolias lacked.

Barnes has engineered some amusing dialogue, though he occasionally strays into TV sitcom-style setup and delivery of punch lines. Barnes also works in an abrupt shock at the end, which transforms all that came before.

This production, directed by Jill McMahon, goes in for a little bit more pop music between scenes (inevitably including Ricky Martin) than I would have preferred. But the show has a smooth look and flows better than most community productions of its kind.

The cast of six is constantly rubbing elbows on the tiny Thistle Dew stage. Susan Madden is a scream as the man-hungry middle-aged neighbor Berniece, wearing a parade of outfits that would look tacky even in Las Vegas. Matthew Huffman, who was excellent as the affluent young white character in Master Harold … and the Boys over at Celebration Arts, plays an entirely different sort of person in this show—a moody auto mechanic who seems to have a beer can materialize between his fingers every time he opens his hand.

Debra Otto plays the somewhat world-weary single mom and gets the part right. Chandra Ashton and Dawn Hartman-Towle are the daughters—one is 26 and has been married 10 years, the other has just finished high school and changes her career goals on a near-daily basis. Eliego Carpizo plays the Cuban love interest who enters the story delivering a pizza—he certainly looks good, but his delivery of his lines is perilously close to deadpan.