Delightfully dark comedy at Theatre Rocks!

Ennis troupe debuts brand-new play during the next two weekends

Daily Light report
Lisa Rosewell (left) and Debra Hinson play sisters in the world premiere of “Big Boy, Miss Alice and the Colonial Encyclopedia Salesman” at Theatre Rocks!

More than one Big Boy came roaring into Ellis County last weekend. Yeah, the steam locomotive was cool — but the brand-new play, “Big Boy, Miss Alice and the Colonial Encyclopedia” at Theatre Rocks! totally smoked the Ennis stage.

Dark humor, Southern eccentricities, iconic ’70s music – if any of these things don’t float your boat, well, ok, this play isn’t for you. But if you are intrigued, by all means, go check out this world premiere during the next two weekends.  “Big Boy” is like watching a play testing its chops for Broadway; it’s just that good. The script, written by Disney writer Jason Milligan, was a finalist in Theatre Rocks’ playwriting competition last season.

The play’s action all takes place in the sunroom of a modest Mississippi family home in 1974-75. Lisa Rosewell of Waxahachie inhabits the character of Big Boy, a widow who has inserted herself – and her destructive small dog – into the life of her younger sister. It would be tough to find a more manipulative character onstage, and Rosewell does a superb job of eliciting shock and laughter, sometimes simultaneously, from the audience.

The twice-divorced younger sister, Miss Alice, is played by Debra Hinson of Ennis. She’s completely believable as a woman who has been taken advantage of in the past and is susceptible to similar traps in the present. However, Hinson allows her character’s nerve and slightly unhinged state to build throughout the story, right up to a deliciously dark zenith.

Jon Kirk Race of Ennis shines as Mr. Taylor, the Colonial Encyclopedia salesman who does his slimy best to charm Miss Alice. Race is new to the Theatre Rocks! stage, but not to the theatre. His 25 years’ stage experience and an Ole Miss theatre background help bring grimy perfection to his Mississippi con artist gig.

Rounding out the cast is Big Boy’s daughter Skeeter, played by Rosewell’s real-life youngest daughter, Elizabeth Mathe of Waxahachie. Skeeter works as a doctor’s receptionist and keeps her mother and aunt – and maybe half the town – supplied with perks from her job, not to put too fine a spoiler point on it. And if Mathe has any repressed frustration or anger, she leaves it all on stage with a glorious fury.

In addition to crafting a fantastic show, director Bill Rhoten has put together a killer sound track that brings extra punch and humor to the action and has the audience singing throughout the scene transitions.

“Big Boy, Miss Alice and the Colonial Encyclopedia Man” continues through Aug. 29 at Theatre Rocks!, 505 NW Main St. in Ennis. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, August 29. Tickets are $15 for students and senior adults, $18 for general adult admission, and can be purchased online at www.theatrerocks.com. Please call 972-878-5126 for reservations or further information.