‘Departed’ play leaves audience laughing

The audience’s energy helped fuel the cast’s performance during Florida A&M University’s Essential Theatre debut of “Dearly Departed,” said director Marci Stringer.

“I was very impressed by the audience,” Stringer said. “It is usually tentative on opening night, but the crowd really helped the actors get into character.”

“Dearly Departed” opened April 2 to a large crowd. The play was the last performance of the season.

“The play choice was appropriate since the past plays were dramas,” said Christian Joy Demeritt, who played the Joy of Life choir director. Demeritt said the night was fun, energetic and the crowd’s reaction was great.

Megan Vandyke, 20, a Tallahassee Community College student from Fort Lauderdale, said she thought the play was exceptional.

“All of the scenes were really good,” she said. “I can’t pick a favorite.”

“Dearly Departed,” written by David Botrell and Jessie Jones, is a story about a dysfunctional Southern family, the Turpins, who are brought together for the funeral of their “mean and surly” patriarch, Bud. With the entire family together, chaos arises when issues turn up about unemployment, children and infidelity.

The 2001 movie “Kingdom Come” is known as the adaptation of “Dearly Departed,” with a cast headed by Whoopie Goldberg, LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett Smith and Loretta Devine.

Janeeka Stansell, 19, a first-year pharmacy candidate from Jacksonville, said she came for a class assignment but tries to attend all of FAMU’s theatre performances.

“The play was exactly like the movie,” Stansell said. “It was funny, meaningful and it kept me on my toes with all of the twists and turns.”

Iikia Poitier, 19, a freshman theatre student from Orlando, said she came for two classes and because she had friends performing in the play. For her, the play was predictable.

“I thought the play was good,” she said. “I liked the play that was performed before “Dearly Departed” better because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Since I’ve seen this movie, I knew what was going to happen.”

Jean R. Toussaint, Jr., 22, who played Clyde and the Joy of Life singer, is a senior theatre performance student from Fort Lauderdale. Toussaint said the play was really rough the first two months practicing, but the cast had come a long way.

“The biggest challenge for me was acting as an older male,” Toussaint said. “I had to adjust the way I talked. I interviewed older citizens so I would know how to speak.”

Poitier said her favorite character was Marguerite, who was played by Ebony La’Kay O’Neal, a senior theatre education student from Deerfield Beach.

“She played her character,” Poitier said. “It seemed natural and she was the funniest.”

Uche Ohia, the director of assessment at FAMU, said the play was very beautiful and entertaining.

“It was a well-needed, mid-week break,” Ohia said. “It was something to laugh about.”

This play is fun and it is something that you can laugh at, said Stringer.

“We all have people in our families that are embarrassing,” she said. “It’s sometimes better to laugh at other people’s families than our own.”

The play ran from April 2-6 at the Charles Winter Wood Theater located in Tucker Hall on FAMU’s campus.