.The Power of Memory

James Dean disciples clash in Novato

The members of a James Dean fan club reunite 20 years after his death in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, the latest Novato Theater Company production running through June 9.

It’s set in the Kressmont Five & Dime in the West Texas town of McCarthy, just a stone’s throw from where James Dean filmed Giant. Some of the locals hired as extras formed a club known as “The Disciples of James Dean” and, fulfilling a pact they made upon Dean’s death, regather to commemorate Dean and reconnect with each other.

The club is led by Mona (Angela Squire), who claims to have spent a night with Dean that resulted in a child. Sissy (Margot Biehle) was a good-time girl who went off and got married but is back while her husband works overseas. Stella (Karen Clancy) and Edna (Lindsay John) are odd “best friends,” seeing as how Stella delights in tormenting Edna.

A gathering of old friends means there are memories to be shared and secrets to be revealed. Many of those secrets are brought to light by a stranger who shows up at the Five & Dime. Joanne (Jayme Catalano) seems to know an awful lot about the goings-on in McCarthy, especially about store proprietor Juanita (Kristine Anne Lowry) and her late husband. She knows even more about Mona.

Why she is privy to this knowledge, and some of the other secrets revealed may have been more surprising when Ed Graczyk’s play premiered 40 years ago. Today’s audiences probably greet the revelations with a shrug more than a gaping jaw, and they’ll probably figure them out long before they’re disclosed. No matter. It’s the journey, not the final destination.

This all plays out over a nice set design by Mark Clark, alternating between the present and the past with younger representations of several of the adult characters, though the separation of past and present starts somewhat muddled.

Director Kim Bromley shows a strong hand with this memory play and has a nice ensemble at work here. Squire is solid as a woman holding on to a delusion long seen through by others. Biehle is big and brassy as Sissy and the source of much of the play’s humor, while Claire Fogarty plays the younger Sissy with just as much brass and sass.

By no measure a “great” play, Jimmy Dean is a good play and gets a more-than-respectable mounting here.

’Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean’ runs Friday–Sunday through June 9 at the Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Ste. C, Novato. Friday–Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. $15- $27. 415.883.4498.


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