Opelika Theatre Company’s latest production depicts dysfunctional but loving Southern family


By Renee Messing
aka: Mary Burger
For the Opelika
Mary Burger here, on special assignment for the Opelika Observer, where I infiltrated the Opelika Theatre Company’s production of “Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got The Will”, written by Del Shores and directed by Wesley Knox, who threw me an OTC t-shirt and put me to work, seconds after my saying I’d love to be involved in such a fun and talanted group of friends and neighbors. It was just the “in” I needed to see what really goes on during one of these productions.
I was introduced to the cast and, and I’m telling you – what a bunch of characters they were!
Mamma Wheelis, your typical grandmother, wore her $1.48 knee high nylons from “the pig” with pride, and cooked up a mean pot roast. But beneath that sweet southern charm was a feisty, quick witted women who’d take a razor strap to your backside if you stepped to far out of line. She helped take care of Buford “Daddy” Turnover after his wife passed, bless her heart, Daddy was dyin’ and lost his mind in the process. I talked to Mr. Turnover for a few minutes and could not blame her one bit for occasionally slipping him a little extra medication so he could rest.
SaraLee Turnover, hair dresser extraordinaire, could have used some help with that curly mop of blonde hair on her own head. Unlucky in love, but trying, she seemed to be the glue holding the family together. No easy task considering her siblings, Orville, Lurlene, and Evalita hightailed it out of town as soon as they could.
Orville, a loud mouthed sanitation engineer, was as mean as a snake towards his sweet wife Marlene. It’s no wonder their son ended up in reform school! Lurlene, the soft spoken pastors wife, could recite Bible verses like nobodys business, but forgot the one in Timothy that mentions taking care of ones relatives, specifically Daddy. Evalita, the baby of the family with a mouth that would make a sailror blush , was the wild child. After five marriages, she thought she found the one in hippy Harmony, turns out Harmony was more interested in rice cakes and Marlene.
Being a reporter with many talents, I was able to convince the main support crew Marty, Libby, Brian and Sandy of my expertise in prop management and was given full access to the backstage. Like a well-oiled machine, snap peas, cups of coffee, a crow bar and a checkers game seemed to magically appear at the exact right moment the cast needed them. And broken tea cups were swept up and replaced in the blink of an eye, impressing this reporter who had a hard time remembering which side was stage left and stage right.
The play was the perfect depiction of a dysfunctional yet deeply loving family, dealing with the roller coaster of emotions one experiences when a family member dies. From who did the most in taking care of the ailing relative before death, to what is considered appropriate attire in a southern Baptist church, and of course the often times hurt feelings that come when the will is read.
Ending with a harmonious rendition of “Precious Memories” and thunderous applause, I was left with a tear in my eye, and a new found respect for community theater. I’ve now got a side gig – and will be looking forward to participating in Opelika Theatre Company’s next production!
This is Mary Burger, signing off until next time.


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