When family patriarch Bud Turpin (played by Jim Sinclair) falls over dead at the breakfast table during the play's first five minutes, the subject matter of Summit Productions' "Dearly Departed" immediately becomes clear.
But as his dysfunctional family prepares for Bud's upcoming funeral, the comic irony of the play's title becomes equally obvious.
When asked by Reverend Hooker (Cecil Ballard) to describe her husband, the most positive thing Raynelle Turpin (Sharon Sinclair) can think of to say is that he's "mean and surly."
His oldest son Ray-Bud (Doug Schultz) -- the family's lone legitimate wage earner -- quibbles over every dime spent for the funeral service, while his evangelically-minded sister Marguerite (Jeanine Eiesland) laments that Bud utterly failed to find salvation before he died.
As the funeral draws near, the preparations are nearly derailed by a mish-mash of family feuds, old resentments and extra-marital flings.
In short, the script by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones adds up to one drop-dead funny evening of theater, says Dave Goebel, director of Summit Productions' latest foray into comedy for the masses.
"It's the first time I ever read a script that I couldn't stop laughing," he says. "In some 35-36 years of directing plays, this is one of the funniest things I've read."
And the cast, a mixture of new and familiar faces from past community theater productions, is an "exceptionally talented" one, Goebel feels.
"Every night is a laugh -- it's been real enjoyable," he says. "Most of these people have had at least some past theater experience -- and some are seasoned veterans."
It also helps that Goebel is such a seasoned director.
"I think the way he (Goebel) matched the actors to the roles is amazing," says Judy Dey, who plays Veda.
"Dave's a great director," says Rick Johnson, who plays Clyde. "He allows us to work out our own characters."
At the same time, Johnson adds, Goebel still manages to rein in their personalities enough to "keep with the flow of the show."
Other memorable cast members include Eric Abrahamson, who plays Junior Turpin, Bud and Raynelle's younger son; Beth Wasche, who plays Junior's wife; D. Mae Ceryes as Lucille Turpin, RayBud's wife; and Matt Sletto, who portrays Marguerite's wastrel son, Royce.
Rounding out the cast are Jennifer Provinzano, as RayBud and Junior's younger sister, Delightful; Hannah Meacham as Nadine; and Katie Sandberg as Juanita. Jim Sinclair also does double duty, playing the wheelchair-bound Norval later in the play's action.
There are five main sets in the play's two acts, including "parts of four people's houses and the funeral parlor," Goebel said. Each of the play's 17 scenes are fairly short, so the sets are kept fairly simple so there's not as lot of transition time needed between scenes.
The biggest change from past productions, Goebel noted, is that the actors are wearing individual microphones instead of using boom mics, which means more technical details need to be worked out prior to opening night.
There are just three performances set for "Dearly Departed," this Thursday through Saturday, March 3-5, at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre, with curtain time at 7:30 p.m. each evening.
Tickets for the show are $12 for adults, $6 for students, which is somewhat reduced from previous years' productions, Goebel notes.
"We researched and found that was the average price for a community theater production," he says.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, you can visit the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., call 218-844-SHOW (7469), or visit the website at www.dlccc.org.