Chicago's Blueprint Theatre, at Red Bones Theatre.
The Turpin clan are a pretty sorry lot at their best--and funerals have a way of bringing out the worst in people. So when Bud Turpin drops dead from a stroke, the family redouble their efforts to drive each other crazy--the women by nagging and the men by withdrawing, mostly. But by the time old Bud's planted, goldarned if everything's not peace, harmony, and big hugs.
Authors David Bottrell and Jesse Jones hail from the same parts as the setting of their play, "below the Mason-Dixon line," so one assumes they have some basis in truth for their sitcom-shallow characters. But more than anything else, what gives Dearly Departed the feel of a runaway Saturday Night Live sketch is the introduction of scenes with no purpose beyond giving the actors another cute "bit." The metabolically challenged Norval and the hyperfecund Nadine contribute nothing to our understanding of the ties that bind, and silently gluttonous Delightful Turpin is never anything but a running sight gag.
The fact that Dearly Departed is reported to be enjoying widespread exposure on the regional theater circuit attests to the enduring popularity of no-brains-required comedy. Chicago's Blueprint Theatre attack their stereotypical characters with gusto, sometimes even managing to salvage some humanity from the hee-haw humor. But better material is needed to reveal what this new company might be capable of accomplishing.