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“Four Old Broads” at Stage West

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Since its debut in March 2017 at the Winder Barrow Community Theatre in Winder, Georgia, the riotous comedy “Four Old Broads” has amassed a big and adoring following across the country. Written by Leslie Kimbell, the play has also acquired three major wins at theatrical festivals. And now “Four Old Broads” is coming to Stage West Playhouse from April 7 through April 17. Stage West, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization dedicated to promoting the theater arts, is located at 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill.

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Director Mark Burdette, who helms this production for Stage West, has been on stage since age 14. He has played pivotal roles in many shows in the Tampa Bay Area, from “A Streetcar Named Desire” in Clearwater to, most recently, “The Lion in Winter” at Stage West, and “Greater Tuna” in Carrollwood. Burdette stated, “When this season’s slate of shows was announced, Four Old Broads caught my eye. It was a newer show that our theater had never produced which, from a director’s perspective, is always appealing. I also knew our audiences in Spring Hill and the surrounding area would be very interested in this play based on the title alone.”

Burdette felt singularly drawn to his source material. He stated, “After reading the script, I knew I had to direct this show. The previous two shows I directed for Stage West were ‘Steel Magnolias’ (I think everyone knows this play or, at least, the film) and ‘The Gin Game’ (which is about two people meeting in a retirement home while bantering and bonding over some hands of gin rummy). Once I saw the assisted living facility in ‘Four Old Broads’ was named Magnolia Place, it felt like fate had already made the decision for me.”

“Four Old Broads” and its playwright, Leslie Kimbell, have been lauded for bringing a fresh, humorous voice to the stage. Burdette strives to maintain this spirit in the Stage West production. “I hope the show we’ve created is what Leslie Kimbell intended it to be. The cast has really embraced their characters and made them very real people, which I think is important with a comedy like this,” Burdette said. “The show is so funny, and one has to be careful not to stumble into caricature territory. It’s not a farce. The show has a lot of heart and a great message of friendship. I believe we deliver that with this production along with a ton of laughs.”

Burdette says that his work with Stage West has helped him evolve as a director. He shares, “As a director, I began working with high school students on regional theater competition pieces. These were usually one-acts or edits of longer shows. Stage West has really allowed me to grow as a director in recent years, and I’m grateful to them for that.”
Burdette took great care in choosing his play’s cast. “When casting this show, I focused on two things: chemistry and comedy,” he said. “Who played well off one another and who made me laugh. All the actors have really embraced their parts and have made each character uniquely their own. I truthfully don’t think I’ve laughed this much in my life.”
And the rehearsal process has been a fun ride. Burdette stated, “Honestly the biggest challenge we’ve had during rehearsals has been getting through the night without having to stop and laugh hysterically every five minutes. The play is hilariously written and this cast of absolute pros have really brought the words to life while having a lot of fun. It’s been difficult for them to keep a straight face. Not to say there haven’t been other challenges. It’s a very prop-heavy show with a good amount of physical comedy. It also has six scenes which means the actors and crew have quite a few quick changes to deal with.”

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Burdette feels that “Four Old Broads” is the perfect show for our society right now. He states, “Between social media and a 24-hour news cycle feeding us mostly depressing info, the need to escape for a couple of hours and laugh is in high demand. Laughter is the best medicine after all, and this show is definitely not short on laughs.”
Overall, Burdette said that he would like people to take away “A sense of unity” from “Four Old Broads.” He states, “The story is about friendship and coming together (even with those ones at odds with) for the common good to overcome a shared threat. In a time when so many people seem divided, it’s great that everyone can sit together, relax in a darkened theater, and share two hours of laughter.”

The cast of “Four Old Broads” is:
Beatrice: Michelle Root
Eaddy: Lynda Dilts-Benson
Imogene: Betsy Glasson
Maude: Sheryl Depp
Sam: Dalton Benson
Nurse Pat: Nichelle Mohre-Cassidy
Ruby Sue: Jeanine Martin-Rogers
Dilts-Benson, also president of Stage West Playhouse, calls “Four Old Broads”, “One of the funniest pieces I have ever been associated with. These characters are people I have met in my medical career and the author has found a ton of humor in what could have been, in real life, quite the tragedy. Anyone with even a tiny funny bone will get a tickle out of it.”
Tickets for Four Old Broads are $20 each for adults, $15 for students. Visit the Stage West box office or https://stagewestflorida.com/buy-tickets/ to buy tickets.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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