“Dividing the Estate” starts with a nice, slow burn and gets steadily funny as it goes along.
By the second act of the comedy staged by Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach, you’ll be in hysterics.
Granted, you sometimes won’t know whether to laugh or clasp your hands over your mouth in disbelief. The play is about the Gordon family in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. You can surmise from the title the thrust of the action, but you can’t begin to imagine the humor. It’s folksy and venomous. The grown ups are immature, approaching infantile, where all they know is they want, they need. Long live the id, and to hell with the superego.
The show has an excellent pedigree. It was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Horton Foote, who includes “The Trip to Bountiful” on the list of his many plays. Foote also won Academy Awards for the screenplays of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Tender Mercies.”
In “Dividing the Estate,” it’s 1987, and greed is good. In the living room of what is apparently a sprawling homestead, the matriarch of the Gordons, Stella (Mary Stout), resists the imploring of her ne’er-do-well and often inebriated son Lewis (Rob Donohoe) and her snapdragon of a daughter Mary Jo (Kim Cozort) to break up the land holdings for some quick cash, which they both desperately need.
Stella’s other daughter, Lucille (Elizabeth Dimon), would like to keep things just as they are. She and her adult son, whom everyone calls Son (Gregg Weiner), manage the estate’s farms. But that well is about to dry up, and Mary Jo has brought in reinforcements: a venal husband, Bob (Kenneth Kay), and Orthrus-like daughters Emily (Gretchen Porro) and Sissie (Leah Sessa). Even the servants — Mildred (Avery Sommers), Cathleen (Deltoiya Monique), Doug (John Archie) — are hovering around, waiting for their piece of the pie. The only person not angling for the money is Lewis' way-too-young girlfriend Irene (Natalia Coego) and that's only because her father has already been paid off.
There’s a little chewing of the scenery, with actors pushing a bit too hard, trying to stand out in a crowded field. But “Dividing the Estate” gets the usual everything-done-right production from Palm Beach Dramaworks, from lighting and set to costumes and makeup/hair, so just settle in and enjoy for two hours with a 15-minute intermission … and thank goodness this isn’t your family.
“Dividing the Estate” is running through April 27 at the Don and Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St., in West Palm Beach. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays, with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $60 ($10 for students). Call 561-514-4042 or PalmBeachDramaworks.org.