Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 8
A kind-hearted farceThe Santa Maria Civic Theatre examines kindness and aging with the feel-good comedy 'Opal's Husband'
BY JOE PAYNE
Some stories don’t need to spell things out for you; they just need to convey a feeling or an idea, and as the action unfolds, the themes become apparent.
The Santa Maria Civic Theatre’s production of Opal’s Husband is a prime example of a play that takes you on a journey of feeling and discovery.
Now finishing its 54th year of offering quality community theater, the Santa Maria Civic Theatre has pulled one of its favorite productions: Opal’s Husband. Set as a sequel to Everybody Loves Opal, the play follows the exploits of the warm-hearted Opal Kronkie, played alternately by Nancy Kunishige and Clare Terrill.
Opal is a woman who sees things simply, divulging her armchair wisdom to the audience in a series of monologues that string the scenes together. She often can’t wait to share her ideas, even when another character is present, reaching through the fourth wall to let us in on her no-nonsense view of things.
Opal lives alone, but has one regular visitor, her friend Rosie, played by Natalie Eastwood. Rosie is a perfect foil to Opal’s optimism, relating dreams of prophetic death and destruction, often consulting her “gypsy cards” for insight on situations, including Opal’s own mortality.
“I checked my gypsy cards three times,” Rosie says, “and you came up dead every time, Opal!”
Eastwood plays Rosie’s consummate worrier well, often getting cross at Opal for her lack of caring about her own eminent (at least to Rosie) demise. Opal, with her iconic honesty, knows her friend best though, and takes a stab at the real problem: She is lonely, like “a horse without a cart.”
“Oh, I’m a horse now!” Rosie fumes.
Opal’s Husband is by John Patrick, a respected comedic playwright, who has featured Opal in other stories. But what makes this one special is the appearance of a new character, Opal’s soon-to-be husband.
With her heart in the right place—as it always is at the beginning of one of her adventures—Opal answers a dating ad in the paper with Rosie’s information. Little does she know that the man who answers the call might be twice the age of her friend.
And in comes Major, the comedic lynchpin of the plot, a man so ancient that he walks doubled over and who can barely make if out of his chair, but still manages to fill the theater with his voice, which comes bellowing out from under a white mustache that matches his Albert Einstein hairstyle. Actor Bill Kirkpatrick revels in the role of Major, depicting every geezer who refuses to act his age. And as the character’s newspaper ad suggests, he is quite “virile.”
After confronting his dishonesty in the newspaper ad, Opal gets to the heart of the situation: Major is an escapee from a nearby old folks home, a place he knows he isn’t meant to be. The name of the facility, the Bunny Hut, is an indicator of the kind of establishment it is.
“Don’t send me back to that Bunny Hut!” he pleads with Opal. “I’m the youngest one there!”
Not long after we learn the old man’s plight and Opal has warmed up to him—seeing him for who he is; a harmless, happy man—the antagonists make their way into the scene in the form of Major’s only daughter Velma and her husband, Otis.
Velma and Otis, portrayed by Sarah Willingham and Alan Foster, are wicked people who have a vested interest in keeping Major in a home. The gold diggers are after Major’s wealth and feel threatened by Opal, the kindly woman entertaining their father.
The play explores kindness in Opal’s open, giving nature. She always aims to help, maybe getting herself into trouble along the way. The play is a laugh for all ages and uses many forms of classic comedy, including wordplay, slapstick, and a plethora of puns. Make sure you catch this season-closer, which reminds us that the Santa Maria Civic Theatre, after more than half a century, is still making live theatre happen in Santa Maria. m
Arts Editor Joe Payne belongs in the Bunny Hut. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.