It’s a race against the clock when a willful Alabama matriarch with a fear of flying decides to attend her son’s wedding on a California beach that’s set four days hence, in the Southern-fried comedy “Mama Won’t Fly,” playing Sept. 21 through Oct. 5 at Dinner Theatre at Franca’s, 1101 E. Nasa Parkway..
Will Mama make it to the church on time?
Missy Lane of Texas City portrays Mama, heading a cast of characters that includes Alane Reynolds Johnson of Friendswood as Savannah Sprunt Fairchild Honeycutt, the daughter who agrees to drive cross-country in Mama’s vintage Buick sedan.
The show was written by the prolific Texas playwriting team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, whose comedies are routinely produced in theaters across the Bay Area.
“Audiences love them,” said Johnson.
“I love them because they write really funny characters,” she said. “They take real-life situations and bring out the humor, which is so much fun to play. Life kind of sucks sometimes, so it’s nice to find funny things in life and laugh about them.”
Johnson graduated from Cypress Creek High School in 1987, but moved to the Bay Area to become a tour guide at Space Center Houston when it opened in October 1992.
“Even in elementary school, I wanted to become an actress, but life got in the way,” she said. “I always talked to my daughter about how much fun it was to do theater.”
Johnson got to fulfill her dream of acting in adulthood when she was cast in a small role in an early 2006 production of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” at Pasadena Little Theatre.
“On opening weekend, the girl who played the main character got ill, so I got to go on in her part,” she said.
Since then, Johnson has appeared in more than 30 shows, including two previous comedies at Franca’s that were directed by Charlotte Jackson of Santa Fe, the director of “Mama Won’t Fly.”
Other actors in the show, some of whom play multiple roles, include: Brianna Renee of Pearland, Judy Ahlhorn of Seabrook, Kathy Edge of Bacliff, Tammy Woods of San Leon, Jeff Luchsinger and Kay Lunn of Pasadena and Steve Quimby of Sugar Land.
Lunn portrays three characters who Mama and Savannah meet along the way, including Great Aunt Pawnee, Edweena and Sybil, They appear in scenes ranging from a church protest over “a sleazy tavern in Texas” to a wedding that gets interrupted in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“This whole thing is just a riot,” said Lunn, 67, who also volunteers as a dog rescuer.
Onstage, she said, “I am usually cast as a sinister old lady. I come across as very firm when I’m acting.”
Lunn, who hails from Beckley, West Virginia, began acting at age 50 when she was dispatched to Florida to care for her ailing father.
“Community theater was something to do,” she said, noting that her first role was that of Lois Douglas, whose husband was the title character in “The Sensuous Senator” by Michael Parker. Last year, its author attended a performance of his farce “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” when Jackson directed a production of it at Dinner Theatre at Franca’s. Ahlhorn, Edge and Quimby also appeared in that show.
The stage manager for “Mama Won’t Fly” is Tyler Thoutt.
Steve and Bev Forgus run lights and sound for the show.
Dinner is served at 6:15 p.m. before the shows, which will be at 8 p.m. Sept. 21-22 and 28-29 and Oct. 5-6. The cost is $35 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call 281-488-2207 for reservations. For further information, including the dinner theater menu, visit www.francasrealitalian.com .
Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org