There's a bright comedy opening in McCook this upcoming weekend called "Send Me No Flowers." Produced by the ever-active Southwest Nebraska Community Theatre Association (or SWNCTA, for those acronym-philes among you in the readership), the show starts its three-day run at the McCook Senior High Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m, with additional presentations to follow on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 and Sunday, Oct. 21, at 2. Tickets are $12, and available at the door. (One caveat: I'm in the cast, as you were bound to discover, sooner or later. Don't let that keep you from coming, though.)
The best way to describe the show, I think, is to say that it's a farcical comedy about love, hypochondria and misunderstanding -- and the havoc that ensues when those three ingredients are blended just right (or wrong, in this case). But while it's a funny piece, there's also a palpable current of warmth running through it; in some plays of this ilk, the lead couple, George and Judy Kimball (played by Maury Green and Kathy Latta), could be so sharp-tongued as to draw blood, making you wonder why they ever married in the first place. Here, though, the characters have genuine affection for one another, so there's a poignancy lent to their struggle.
The plot, in its essence: George is constantly worried about his health, and recent chest pains are putting him even further ill-at-ease. It doesn't help that Judy's old college boyfriend Bert (Joseph McCarty) -- now a wealthy oilman -- has decided to drop by for a weekend visit.
While Judy takes Bert out of the house to show him the "cute little town" she and George have settled in ("The A&P looks just like Independence Hall," Judy proclaims), family doctor Ralph Morrissey (Duane Tappe) drops by to give George a quick checkup. Ralph diagnoses the nervous man's pain -- "It's called in-di-ges-tion," the doctor says, sounding out the syllables to make it crystal-clear -- and gives him a bottle of pills to soothe the discomfort.
George toddles off to the kitchen to take a first dose, and while he's engaged, he overhears his friend and physician making a phone call to a cardiologist and finding out some bad news about another patient. Since George's mind has no trouble leaping to wild conclusions (he's a vivid fantasist, a daily reader of the obituary page, and keeps a medical dictionary on his bookshelf, open to the worst possible conditions), it's no surprise that he going to make the assumption that Ralph was really talking about him.
George sees the world collapsing around him, and Judy's future happiness is going with it. After confiding his "condition" to next-door neighbor and best friend Arnold (played by your author), and fearing that Judy is doomed to a life of despair -- or worse, exploitation ("She depends on me for everything," he declares at one point) -- he develops a strategy to secure her golden years. George decides to play matchmaker for his unaware wife, pairing her with the equally-unaware Bert, all the while making arrangements for a cemetery plot at Eternal Gardens, aided by that business' eager representative, Mr. Akins (Don Harpst).
The plan hits a major snag, however, when Judy begins to suspect that George's motives for sending the two former flames out on the town are less noble than they seem. Judy's accusation leads George into a desperate, head-long scramble to salvage his marriage -- even if it means confessing to an affair he never had.
I know that my synopsis can't do the play justice, but as you can see, there's a lot of plates spinning here. What makes the show so entertaining is how the light-on-their-feet castmembers keep the action moving. (And I haven't yet mentioned several performers -- David Sandman, Tiffany Anderson and JeriLynn Karr -- who help to provide memorable comic moments throughout the production.)
Admittedly, I'm in no way a casual, external observer, so when I say that SWNCTA's production "Send Me No Flowers" is a lot of fun, my viewpoint is clearly biased. Still, I don't think I'm exaggerating too wildly, either.
My advice? Come out and see it this weekend during its limited run. I think you'll enjoy watching some of your friends and neighbors tread the boards, certainly, but I also hope that you'll be reminded -- and delighted -- that the city of McCook maintains a remarkably active creative community.