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The bereaved harbor baggage in ‘Departed’

The kinfolk gather for a funeral in ‘Dearly Departed,’ presented by The Actors Circle in Scranton.

The kinfolk are gathering, lugging macaroni and ham-loaf surprise to a viewing, because good ol’ boy Bud Turpin just died.

“We’re not quite sure how. It could have been that he was putting whiskey in his cornflakes,” said Marilyn Rau, who is directing the comedy “Dearly Departed” for The Actors Circle in Scranton. “He probably wasn’t that healthy to start with.”

No matter what or who did in old Bud, it’s time for members of the Turpin family to pay their last respects, though respect isn’t high on their list of virtues.

“Junior and Suzanne are on their way to the funeral, and he’s losing money in his new business, trying to sell a parking-lot-cleaning machine, because nobody cares if their parking lots are clean,” Rau said. “She keeps telling him what a loser he is, and he gets back at her – but I won’t say how.”

Also en route to the wake are Bud’s sister, “who is very, very devout and thinks he’s going to roast in hell,” and the sister’s son, “who is newly independent, and they have this struggle about her wanting to be in charge of how he behaves.”

Add in the jealousies between Suzanne and the wife of the rich man she could have married, the allegations of Junior’s affair, the question of what to engrave on the headstone and the behavior of a woman who “zones out on food the way some (people) use alcohol to desensitize themselves,” and you’ll see the bereaved have a lot of baggage.

Director Rau says her cast is doing a great job, though she hopes the players can maintain the appropriate Southern accents. “I’m aiming for ‘Designing Women,’ and sometimes they go all ‘Andy Griffith’ on me,” she said.

She’s also grateful to set designer Lou Bisignani for “building an old-fashioned roadster, painted red,” to convey the characters to the funeral. Rau was going to simply place them in chairs arranged like carseats on the stage, “but Lou is more meticulous than that.”

The show continues at 8 tonight and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton. For tickets, call 342-9707.

In other theater news, the new Phoenix Performing Arts Centre in Duryea will host its first production, “Night Maneuver,” this weekend.

“It’s an incredible play, with a lot of humor and pain and love,” said Brandon Wood, who appears in the two-man show with Carlos Candelario.

The two portray Lou and Tim, a pair of brothers who have “an abusive relationship. It’s all about the older brother trying to feel better about himself. He has a lot of insecurities,” Wood said.

The characters’ problems may have started in childhood, when Lou was picked on by a third, oldest-of-all, brother, who doesn’t appear in the play. That brother was cruel to Lou, who took out his frustrations on Tim.

Will Tim allow Lou to continue to mistreat him?

“It’s very common in abusive relationships for someone to take a stand, but then slip the next day and let things go back to the way they were,” said Wood, who researched the psychology of abuse.

Wood, who is artistic director for a new troupe called the Pennsylvania Theatre Experiment, is excited about using the Phoenix Performing Arts Centre, which is billed as “the first co-op communitive theater created in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

The setting, on Main Street, Duryea, used to house Applause Theatre, and before that, the Kurlancheek furniture store.

“It’s so nice to have a place,” said Alicia Nordstrom from Bracken Theatre, one of several companies that plan to stage performances at the Phoenix Performing Arts Centre this year.

Other groups who are busy reserving time slots are Diva Theater Co., Phoenix Theatrics, KISS Theatre Co. and the Pennsylvania Theatre Experiment, which also plans a musical and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” for this summer.

Show times for the “Night Maneuver” are 8 tonight and tomorrow night and 2 p.m. Sunday at 311 Main St., Duryea. For reservations, call 457-3589.

A grand-opening celebration will take place from 3-5 p.m. May 31 with tours of the refurbished theater and refreshments.

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