Putting the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’; Troy Civic Theatre returns with ‘Daddy’s Dyin’, Whose Got the Will?’

TROY — The Troy Civic Theatre is returning to in-person shows on Friday with one about a family putting the “fun” in “dysfunctional.”

“It’s a comedy at heart, with very sentimental, deep moments about some pretty serious themes but presented in as funny a way as possible,” Director Michael Schumacher said.

Written by Del Shores, “Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?” concerns the reunion of a family gathered to await the imminent death of their patriarch, Buford Turnover, who has recently suffered a physically, as well as mentally, disabling stroke. Personalities clash within the perfectly dysfunctional family as the focus is split on caring for Buford, making funeral preparations and who’s getting how much of the estate in the will.

The cast is made up of Rebecca O’Brien as Sara Lee Turnover, Jennifer Kaufman as Lurlene Turnover Rogers, Kathy Campbell as Mama Wheelis, Abby Kennebrew Smith as Evalita Turnover, Chris Nelson as Harmony Rhodes, Brian Laughlin as Buford Turnover, Mark Van Luvender as Orville Turnover, and Janet Wasson as Marlene Turnover. While the fictional Turnover family is at odds with one another throughout the show, the actors in “Daddy’s Dyin’” have found that they’ve become like a close family over the last six weeks of rehearsal.

“Theatre people become your family. We spend a lot of time together at rehearsal, and all these things, and so we haven’t been able to see each other. Some of us had done stuff together before, and now we’re making friends and new family, and it’s been nice,” O’Brien said.

The show was set to be performed September and October of last year, but the pandemic quickly changed the Troy Civic Theatre’s plans. Schumacher counts it as nothing less than amazing to be able to follow through with the show, complete with an in-person audience.

“I’m amazed and excited. It’s been a long process to get it started, but it’s great to have theatre back,” Schumacher said. “For a lot of people, this is their main creative outlet, and I think there were a lot of people starving for that during the pandemic.”

While many performing arts organizations and programs in the area turned to virtual audiences during the pandemic, many of the cast for “Daddy’s Dyin’” agree that there is no definitive substitute or replacement for the charge live theatre can give both actors and audiences.

“I think the performing arts are really important because it’s a moment we all get to experience together, as a cast and as an audience. There’s something with the performing arts you don’t get through a TV screen. It’s sharing the time with everybody else who’s here and maybe having insights the person next to you doesn’t have,” Nelson said.

With comedy at the heart of the show and deep, dramatic roots, the show has also challenged many of its actors, not just with the words but with how different their characters are from themselves as people. Smith described the characters as multi-dimensional and layered.

“It’s always nice to play something that you have to really think about and delve into and kind of become that person. The script gives you enough to do that,” Smith said. “I think playing someone opposite of yourself is more fun.”

“Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?” will hold performances beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, Saturday, Sept. 25, Friday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 2, with two matinee performances beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. Tickets are $14 each and are available by calling the box office at 937-339-7700 or online at troycivictheatre.com.