The reviews are in for “Jimmy Dean”

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The 20th reunion of the Disciples of James Dean attracts a mysterious stranger (pictured left to right: Noe Tallen, Tina Frederickson, Tina Moroni, Candace Barrett Birk), and their memories intermingle with flashbacks to the time when movie star Dean was filming nearby.

“Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” runs through January 30 at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis. Thinking of seeing the show? Check out these reviews before you go:

From William Randall Beard at the Star Tribune:

The production at Theatre in the Round is as effective as one is likely to find. It mines the play’s brittle humor while avoiding the most portentous melodrama. Give credit to director David Coral.

Coral draws powerful performances from his strong ensemble of women, finding, for each, a distinctly different Southern rhythm. He is very successful at keeping the action moving through the long set up that is the first act…

One of the real pleasures of the production is Rob Jensen’s set. His dime store is crammed with period artifacts that provide a nice physical, and emotional, setting for the drama.

The play has a happy ending that it doesn’t earn. The reconciliations come too easily after too many years of pain and animosity. But the production makes it work. Tallen, Frederickson and Moroni make a genuine, heartfelt connection, while avoiding excessive sentimentality.

From Renee Valois at the Pioneer Press:

No one would accuse playwright Ed Graczyk of writing a believable story with true-to-life characters in “Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.” The plot is more than a little unlikely and the quirky characters behave in odd ways — but not with the absurdity needed to fuel humor. Fortunately, director David Coral makes the most of the iffy material in Theater in the Round’s production, boosting interest with lively acting and a set that is almost a character in itself.

That’s good, because the play starts slowly, with a couple of characters whining about the heat, swatting flies and wondering where everyone else is. It’s 1975, and members of the Disciples of James Dean fan club are gradually gathering for a 20-year reunion commemorating the anniversary of their idol’s death in 1955. They’re at a Five and Dime store in Texas near the town where he shot his last film, “Giant.”

From Dwight Hobbes at TC Daily Planet:

Best known as the Robert Altman film that helped make Cher a movie star, the story actually is quite a cut above Hollywood’s usual fodder. It’s a bittersweet saga of old friends and the shifting, tenuous foundations beneath their relationships with one another. Teenage friends Mona, Sissy, Joanne, Edna Louise, and Stella May, all grown up, haven’t got together in ages and, lifelong fans of cinema legend James Dean, hold a reunion of the fan club. What was meant as a nice little renewing of acquaintances turns out to be more than anyone involved bargained for. Heads spin, hearts break, cruel reality sorely testing the bonds of friendship as well as the ability to accept oneself.

The greater Come Back to the Five & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean challenges its characters, trying their very souls, the more uplifting is its conclusion, testifying to just how much the human spirit can endure to survive. To, in fact, prevail.

When you direct an ensemble show well, nobody can tell where the acting picks up and the directing leaves off. This is the case with very sharp director David Coral and his skilled cast of Candace Barret Birk, Noë Tallen, Valarie Falken, Tina Frederickson, Erin Denman, Tina M. Moroni, Ann Carroll, Kelli Gorr, and Daniel Eckman-Thomas. It’s the kind of fluid, seamless blend of talents that’s hard to come by. Gracyk’s script is rich in character-driven dialogue, giving Carol and company a field day with which to execute wonderfully entertaining, powerfully moving theater.

Have you seen the show? If so, share your thoughts in the comments section.

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