Enjoy a Good Laugh: Eccentric neighbors bring comedy, chaos to Whidbey Playhouse

Nosy neighbors Reba Harper, played by Shealyn Christie, and Cora Gump, played by Allenda Jenkins, listen to Myra Marlowe, played by Tamra Sipes, and  Willa Mae Wilcox, played by Mary K. Hallen.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Nosy neighbors Reba Harper, played by Shealyn Christie, and Cora Gump, played by Allenda Jenkins, listen to Myra Marlowe, played by Tamra Sipes, and Willa Mae Wilcox, played by Mary K. Hallen.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Television actress Myra Marlowe is tired of the crazy, shallow people in Hollywood -- until she meets her new neighbors in cozy Beaver Haven, the perfect little town where she planned to disappear to write her autobiography and grow the perfect tomato.

Too bad Beaver Haven is anything but perfect. And there aren’t even any beavers.

The comedy, “A Bad Year for Tomatoes,” opens at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor Friday, Sept. 9 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 25.

Instead of the peace she craved, Myra, played by Tamra Sipes, is greeted by her sugary “Hospitality Ladies” neighbors on a gossip mission; a voodoo witch; and a bad-smelling, manure-selling “back, back, backwoodsman,” as described by Linda Walbeck, director.

So much for settling into small-town life away from the insanity of it all.

Every time Myra tries to sit down to write her autobiography, someone is “yoohooing” at her door.

Shealyn Christie plays Reba Harper, a nosy neighbor who doesn’t like to gossip but happens to pass on information about town scandals. Meanwhile, transparent Cora Gump, played by Allenda Jenkins, brings her daily drama to Myra for some therapeutic “tea.”

Axe-wielding backwoodsman Piney, played by Kevin Wm. Meyer, barges in selling wood, manure and nuts -- and leaving behind his one-of-a-kind aroma. Witch Willa Mae Wilcox, played by Mary K. Hallen, snatches Myra’s hands for palm readings and whirls around the house wielding a hat pin.

The cherry on top is Myra’s Hollywood agent, Tom Lamont, played by Sean Hall. He begs her to return to Hollywood and acting -- and to start a romantic relationship with him.

In this hilarious tornado of insanity, what is Myra to do but put her acting skills to work and invent a zany diversion to keep the crazies away?

“That’s where the real comedy begins,” said Walbeck.

Walbeck has directed more than 20 plays. This is her sixth at the Whidbey Playhouse.

“We put in a lot of hard work to make this happen,” Walbeck said. The cast has been rehearsing weekly for nearly three months.

“Rehearsals were fun and frustrating and everything else in between. But we knew we’d get to a good end,” said Meyer, who was hoping for the part of Piney when he  auditioned. “The eccentric characters attracted me. I knew I could add to it.”

Jenkins said she enjoyed the freedom to create her character by adding personality and Cora’s trademark giggles.

Meyer said one reason he enjoys community theater is because actors have the freedom to put together their own costumes. He moved to Whidbey Island a year ago and came to the theater to meet people.

“The fun of community theater is seeing people from around your neighborhood,” Jenkins said, adding that community theater is especially important in a military town because people stationed here who don’t know anyone can participate in the Whidbey Playhouse and make friends.

“We have a lot of fun together. With three months of rehearsals you make a new family,” Sipes said.

Playing Myra is Sipes’ first lead role.

“This should be a well-loved play by everyone living in small towns with honest people -- they don’t talk,” Sipes said with a smile.

Truly the small-town drama, gossip and plot twists by actors and actresses in love with their work will bring on the laughs.

“This play is such a funny, good way to laugh for a couple hours,” Walbeck said.


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