In the tradition of Steel Magnolias and Crimes of the Heart comes the current 
offering at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Ed Graczyk’s down-home comedy 
Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. Like SM and COTH, 
CBTTF&DJDJD features a cast of feisty and fabulous Southern (in this case Texas) 
women, loads of laughs, and a surprise or two.

CBTTF&DJDJD started as a 1982 Broadway play directed by the illustrious Robert 
Altman and featuring Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, and Kathy Bates, all of 
whom reprised their roles in Altman’s ’82 film. Here, those actresses’ shoes have 
been more than capably filled by Kimberly Patterson, Jacqueline Axton, C. 
Stephen Foster, and Sara Borgeson. If you notice a disparity in the gender of one 
member of Hermosa Beach’s cast, you may guess the big act 1 “surprise,” though 
that’s not the least of those that are revealed in the course of a very entertaining 
and well acted dramedy.

With “This Little Light of Mine” playing on the jukebox of the titular Kressmont 5 & 
Dime in 1975 McCarthy, Texas, we first meet Patterson as Mona and Elisabeth 
Foldes Meiman as Juanita, who are getting the place ready for the 20 year 
reunion of a group of James Dean fans who were there for the filming of Dean’s 
last film, Giant, shot virtually in their back yards in 1955.

“You come back to the 5 & Dime, now, you hear, Jimmy Dean,” calls Mona out the 
door, and we first wonder if perhaps she’s talking to a pet dog who’s out for a run. 
We soon learn, however, that Mona is calling after her 19-year-old son, who she 
claims is the (“mentally deficient”) progeny of James Dean, fathered one Texas 
night during Giant’s filming.  She has stayed in this dusty Texas town to raise her 
child, having abandoned plans to go off to college due to her asthma, she claims.  
Flashy Sissy (Axton) arrives, excited because “Ice Capades are coming to town!”  
She plans to become one of them because, though she has only roller skated, 
“skatin’s skatin.” Later arrivals include garrulous Stella Mae (Borgeson) wearing a 
huge diamond ring from an oil millionaire husband and dumb, blonde, and 
pregnant (for the seventh time) Edna Louise (Carolyn Cannon).  Missing from their 
reunion is their lone male member Joe (played in flashbacks by Rhett Nadolny), a 
sissy boy who got frequently beaten up “because of what he is,” or as Juanita 
would put it, because he was a “prevert.”

Joe is not the only character who appears in flashbacks. There’s also Mona Then 
(Dana DeRuyck) and Sissy Then (Meredith Rensa).  Thanks to Michael Tushaus’ 
excellent lighting design, we move from present to past and back and forth again 
seamlessly.  In flashbacks we learn of the girls’ excitement at having observed 
Giant being filmed in the nearby tiny Texas town of Marfa. Mona actually 
appeared in the film in a crowd scene, though darn if Elizabeth Taylor didn’t get in 
the way of her being seen except for one brief moment.

There is one more arrival at the reunion and that is the petite pant-suited Joanne 
(C. Stephen Foster), who seems to know more about the girls than any stranger 
would and who turns out to be… As stated previously, there are more shockers on 
the way, involving mammarily blessed Sissy and overly protective mom Mona and 
yet another involving Joanne.

Like Beth Henley in Crimes of the Heart and Robert Harling in Steel Magnolias, 
playwright Graczyk has created some great roles for actresses, and director 
Stephanie A. Coltrin has brought out the best in all of them.  Patterson especially is 
a standout, doing spontaneous and deeply felt work as Mona.  Axton also 
impresses as Sissy, especially in her heartfelt Act 2 revelation.  Cannon is a 
deliciously dumb Edna Louise, and gets the biggest laugh of the evening with a 
single word (Joe?!). Foster effortlessly channels his inner woman in a very good turn 
as Joanne. There are no weak links in this cast.

Scenic designer Christopher Beyries deserves special mention for his outstanding 
set, yet another great one in the 1950s diner tradition, with its red and white 
checked plastic tablecloths and metal and red leather chairs, and multiple props 
of the era.  (Juanita has decorated it “special” for this special day, and there are 
Christmas, Easter, and Valentine ornaments galore.)  Erik Bleuer’s sound design is 
very good, incorporating 1950s music as well as ambient sounds.  Karen L. Cornejo 
has designed costumes to fit each character perfectly, with one exception. 
Joanne’s unflattering velour pajama-like pantsuit and clogs seem wrong for 
someone who, more than most, would seem to want to impress the world with her 

I could quibble about the fact that there is somewhat of an age disparity 
between the 1975 women (who would all be about the same age, I’d guess), a 
looks disparity between Mona/Sissy Then and Mona/Sissy Now, and a Joe who 
appears to have shrunk a few inches in becoming Joanne.  But theater is where 
we suspend our disbelief, and because these are such good actresses/actors, it 
wasn’t hard to do so.

Come Back to the Five & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean marks a stellar opening 
to the Hermosa Beach Playhouse’s 2007-2008 season, which also includes 
(incidentally) Steel Magnolias in January. CBTTF&DJDJD is funny, heartwarming, 
nostalgic, and makes a darned good plea for acceptance of those whom society 
too often marginalizes.  High marks to all those involved in the production. 

Hermosa Beach Playhouse, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach.

–Steven Stanley
October 30, 2007
Photos: Alysa Brennan

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