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Gerald Carpenter: Santa Paula Theater Center Takes Run at ‘Second Samuel’

The Santa Paula Theater Center launches into summer with a new production of the Pulitzer-nominated comedy Second Samuel by Pamela Parker, which runs through Aug. 4 on its Main Stage at 125 S. Seventh St. in Santa Paula.

Second Samuel
Like so many good yarns, Pamela Parker’s Second Samuel begins with a funeral.

Second Samuel is directed by SPTC Managing Director Fred Helsel, produced by Leslie Nichols, with sets, lighting and costumes designed by Seth Kamenow, Gary Richardson and Barbara Pedziwiatr. Leticia Mattson serves as stage manager of the production, which stars Eric Burton, Dan Tullis, Doug Friedlander, Peggy Steketee, Scott Blanchard, Elixeo Flores, Sindy McKay, Maranda Mobley, Rick De Leon, Ron Flesher and Tammy Mora.

Boy, those Southern playwrights, like Southern novelists, just keep on coming, don’t they? I wonder what it is about the region that gets all its children scribble-scribble-scribbling — and doing it so well. It can’t be the quality of their public schools. Indeed, Parker admits to having had very little schooling, of an official nature, at all. What she had was a pair of grandparents who raised her and told her stories about life in the rural South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the South, as William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Pamela was a good and dutiful listener, with a fine ear for nuance and a gifted imagination that filled in the blanks in the characters of her grandparents’ tales.

The eponymous “Second Samuel” is a small mill town in Georgia. It is “Second” because the first town named “Samuel” on that location burned to the ground and had to be completely rebuilt.

The name’s Biblical echoes — “Samuel II” contains, among other things, a report of the death in battle of King Saul and his son, Jonathan (David’s boyhood chum) and the memorable sentence, “How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” — are no doubt deliberate, but whether they are merely there for surrealistic humor or speak to some underlying message in the play, I couldn’t say.

Second Samuel is set in 1949. Here is how the play’s publisher describes it: “It was a simpler time in the late 1940s, especially in South Georgia and specifically in a sleepy little town called Second Samuel. What had been called the Great Depression was quickly fading into memory. The war had been won, the election was now over, and ‘Give ‘em Hell Harry’ was still president. It had been an exciting time for sure, but the folks in Second Samuel were ready for things to settle down and get back to normal. Except, this was the summer Miss Gertrude passed away, and deep dark secrets were about to be revealed. Nobody could have imagined how the death of one sweet little old lady would turn the entire town upside down, leaving everybody in Second Samuel wondering if anything would ever be normal again!”

Second Samuel plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 4 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and $12 for children. Tickets can be purchased by calling the SPTC box office at 805.525.4645 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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