Center Stage: The church basement ladies are back with ‘A Second Helping’
“A Second Helping! The Church Basement Ladies Sequel” is currently causing a laugh riot at the Off Broadway Palm; this sequel reprises the same ladies in all their “Uffda” yelling, knife-flailing, Wonder-bread wearing “Minnesotian” glory.
As nourishing and comforting as the Norwegian lutefisk, fish concoction, or the, “we’re not sure what’s in it pot pie”, served at these Midwestern Lutheran Church potluck dinners. The basement ladies have gathered again to dish out the same ingredients and laughs as they did back in 2009, when they performed the first “Basement Ladies” at the Off Broadway Palm, with slightly different cooks. But one need not have seen the first one in order to enjoy “A Second Helping,” which is even better.
Vivian (Kay Francis), Mavis (Nikki Savitt) and Karin (Carrie SaLoutos) are still running their rural Minnesota Lutheran church basement kitchen but we’ve moved ahead to 1969. Karin’s daughter Beverly (formerly known as “Signe”, played by Cassandra Nuss) has moved back home from the city, breaking the news she’s expecting her first child.
Meanwhile the uptight, stick to the rules, take charge widow, Vivian has suddenly become the merry widow by changing her tune; she mellows out, getting all warm and fuzzy after meeting the new church custodian.
Lynx Murphy, as the Church’s Pastor (the only male character in this show), scores big laughs when he makes a delightful shift from his laid-back, congenial man of the cloth to an exotic native in a grass skirt (a gift from some visiting missionaries). Lynx is getting big laughs by belting out “Old Dog New Tricks”, a la Elvis. The imaginative set by Paul Drechsel is so comically well constructed and cleverly used that it almost becomes the 6th character in this delicious comedy
The plot, paper thin as it is and the music plays second fiddle, to what makes this show so delightfully goofy, the giggle producing, one-liners and the hysterically funny physical comedy, which make this farce the winner that it is. Part of the saving grace that keeps “Second Helping,” from going over the top is due to the fine, fast moving direction of Curt Wollen, and spot on choreography and staging, by the multi-talented Amy Marie McCleary.
Both Wollen and McCleary’s well thought-out choices has these excellent, comic actors underplay the harebrained dialogue, but still playing it for the laughs, which they get from the audience. In lesser hands, “Second Helping” could have been a pretty long, almost 2 hour show, with all those Norwegian, Lutheran, stereotypes, stirred into a thin story line, instead time moves swiftly, as the hap, hap, happy audience explodes into belly laughs at nearly every bit of dialogue.
So if Garrison Keillor’s accounts from “Lake Wobegon,” tickles your funny bone then you are gonna be in hog heaven and “Church Basement Ladies: A Second Helping” is the dish for you.
You’d best get in the chow line double quick, because this show was sold out even before opening night and it closes May 29. Get your “Second Helping” fix now by phoning the box office at 278-4422 and when you call remind ’em Marsha sent you.