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Back to the Stage 

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Theatre of Western Springs artistic director Tony Vezner thought the script for Dearly Departed, by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, was a hoot when he first read it a year ago--"the darkest, most campy, goofiest comedy I've seen." He knew right away he wanted to direct it, and put it on the schedule as the last play for this season. Then, last fall, he saw Kingdom Come, a movie version of the play starring LL Cool J and Jada Pinkett Smith. "It was awful," Vezner says. "They Hollywood-ized it, sanitized it," turning the black comedy about a stereotypically trashy hillbilly family into a broad African-American dramedy. It didn't work, Vezner says, but it didn't shake his conviction that he knew how to do it right. Dearly Departed opens with a big daddy death scene and includes a wake, a funeral, and an array of dysfunctional relatives. Vezner's version has turntable sets and music, but he says what really makes it work is "getting the actors to give up any shred of dignity." Hollywood "took the edge off it," he adds, but "I have no scruples." It opens May 30 and runs through June 9 at the theater, 4384 Hampton in Western Springs. Curtain time is 8 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2:30 Sunday with additional performances June 2 at 7:30 and June 8 at 2:30. Tickets are $15, $18 Friday and Saturday nights. Call 708-246-3380.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Greg Kolack.

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