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      Eula Mae's Beauty, Bait & Tackle
    Draggin' ladies

    The southern, um, belles of "Eula Mae's Beauty, Bait & Tackle" deliver some uproarious moments in a sometimes-incongruous story about faded beauty queens and romance.


    "Eula Mae's Beauty, Bait & Tackle," now playing in Midtown after a nine-year run in Atlanta, is a farcical depiction of life in a small Alabama town. While Helen Bessette sweetly portrays rodeo champion and shop owner Eula Mae in a realistic manner, Chuck Richards and Frank Blocker, who also co-wrote the script, play the remaining six roles, usually in a lightly made-up drag.

    Written by: Frank Blocker, Chuck Richards.
    Directed by: Linda Patton.
    Cast: Frank Blocker, Chuck Richards, Helen Bessette.

    Related links: Official site
    Set in a bait shop, the play is more memorable for its characters than its plot. Carl Joe, a skinny trucker played by Blocker, is for the 13th year pursuing tough-talking Eula Mae, who swats him away as she prepares to add hairdos to her list of services. Granny Anna Mae, also played by Blocker, dodders across stage with her words of wisdom "Forgiveness is good but guilt gets you jewelry" encouraging the Carl Joe romance.

    Richards, a short stocky fellow with a hint of a beard, alternately embodies 29-year-old beauty contestant Rita Mae Raspberry and her Tammy-Wynette-inspired mother, Eva Mae. Mrs. Raspberry, a divorcee who still demands child support for her aging daughter, stops by the shop to fill her bag with sweets, as does her portly beauty-queen offspring, with alcoholic pageant coach Sue Sue Daniels (Blocker) in tow.

      Eula Mae's Beauty, Bait & Tackle
    With little to disguise his maleness other than a wig, lipstick and dress and lacking the feminine conviction and qualities of Blocker, Richards' characters are broadly drawn but funny and the show's greatest moment belongs to him as Rita Mae transcendently performs her baton-bongo ballet-tap number during the Miss Alabama talent competition. Blocker is also engaging as Granny Anna Mae whose explanation for an enduring marriage was that her husband was as "big around as a can of corn and I wasn't about to give that up." A moment during the second act when Blocker as Sue Sue Daniels attacks an unsuspecting audience member as the "fat bitch" who set her hair on fire during the 1978 Miss Alabama pageant is also very effective and amusing.

    The uniquely Southern metaphors and sweeping character statements are the script's greatest strength. Carl Joe professes his love to Eula Mae with "Every time I hear your voice, my heart jumps into my craw like I just swallowed my dip." He describes himself best with the line: "I should be at work but I'm self-employed so I ain't got nothing to do." Eula Mae explains her refusal to wed with "Men — I don't mean to hate 'em, I just do."

    While there are moments of extreme hilarity in the piece, the exaggerated performances of the men coupled with the realistic performance of Bessette create a scenario where none of the characters are taken seriously. While each personality has clever and amusing monologues, the structure of the play lacks conflict and drive. Its resolution — the outcome of both the pageant and the Eula Mae-Carl Joe romance — is pat. Its an evening that showcases the considerable comedic talents of both Richards and Blocker but does not quite work as a compelling script.

    APRIL 24, 2001

    Reader comments on Eula Mae's Beauty, Bait & Tackle:

  • Change the World thru Tap and Twirl   from MK, Apr 26, 2001

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