Small town secret: Southern charm, life lessons found in TCT’s “Second Samuel”

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

The best small Southern towns are full of secrets, and the town of Second Samuel is no different.
It’s the secret of Second Samuel’s late matriarch, Miss Gertrude, that tears the town apart in Tupelo Community Theatre’s latest production, “Second Samuel.”
“Think ‘Steel Magnolias’ woven together with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” said director Jonathan Martin. “It’s a comedy with a message.”
The play is set in the late 1940s in a small Georgia town called Second Samuel – so named because the first one burned down.
The town’s residents are familiar: the loud and funny hairdresser, Omaha (Suzanne Oakley); her quiet, understanding husband, Frisky (Bud Nelson); the all-knowing Doc (Danny McKenzie); the snooty pastor’s wife, Jimmy Deeane (Liz Dawson); and the story’s narrator, the simple-minded B-Flat (Todd Barnett). How each of these characters deal with the passing of Miss Gertrude and the revelation of her lifelong secret are at the heart of “Second Samuel.”
“Second Samuel,” a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play written by Pamela Parker, deals with “themes of tolerance of race, gender, personalities, disabilities and virtually anyone who is ‘different,’” Martin said.
B-Flat, Ruby and more
For actor Todd Barnett, the role of B-Flat, a young man with unspecified disabilities, is a challenge.
“I’ve done quite a bit of research into people with disabilities,” Barnett said. “It’s that plus a lot of intuition. I do want to make him his own character.”
Another difficult role is that of Jimmy Deeane, played by Liz Dawson. Being snobby and saying mean things about her fellow Second Samuel residents is tough for the actress, she said.
“She’s pretty self-centered,” Dawson said. “It’s been challenging because she’s so not like me. It’s a stretch, and it’s fun to do, but it’s hard being that thoughtless and that selfish.”
Allana Austin is Ruby, who works at Omaha’s salon. Ruby’s one of the more even-keeled residents of Second Samuel, so she gets plenty of laughs trying to balance out the town’s more extreme personalities.
Still, Ruby has a part to play in a town that’s torn apart by scandal.
“It’s a play about people you know in life versus how you know them in death, and how people are remembered,” Austin said.
Anyone who’s lived or grown up in a small Southern town can relate to “Second Samuel,” Barnett said.
“There’ll be laughter, there’ll be tears, there’ll be very emotional scenes,” Barnett said, “and hopefully some lessons will be learned.”
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com

On Stage
What: Tupelo Community Theater presents “Second Samuel”
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2-4, 2 p.m. Feb. 4
Where: Lyric Theater
Cost: $15/adults, $6/students
Info: (662) 844-1935