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The Miss Firecracker Contest

Beth Henley's Off-Broadway play "The Miss Firecracker Contest" just opened at the Brown County Playhouse in a production directed by Dale McFadden. Henley's play is a comedy-drama that has a bit of the flavor of the screwball comedies of the thirties. But, let me quickly add that what we get is a leisurely series of character sketches not a tight play that offers dramatic gags or clever repartee.

The show opens with fire-engine-red headed Coryell Barlow as Carnell Scott, clad in leotards and a huge Uncle Sam hat. She's working on a tap dance routine to the "Star Spangled Banner." Carnell is hoping that victory in the local beauty and talent pageant will be a life changing experience, her transformation from the insecure local "Miss Hot Tamale" to the reigning local queen, "Miss Firecracker."

In her quest Carnell is supported totally by Melissa Joy Nedell as her kooky dress maker, Popeye Jackson, mostly by her beauty pageant winning older cousin- the cool- Elain Rutledge played by Kelly Ann Ford, and grudgingly by her cousin and recent insane asylum resident Delmount Williams played by Chris Nelson.

Along the way they meet some old friends, genial carnival hustler Mac Sam played by Geoff Wilson and The Miss Firecracker pageant coordinator, the energetic Tessy Mahoney, played by Carol Enoch.

Production values of the Brown County production are high. Scenic designer Mark Frederic Smith's richly conceived and detailed old horror of a lower middle class southern living room and of a tired small town carnival fitted nicely with the costumes of Amanda Bailey.

"The Miss Firecracker Contest" is the story of small fragile characters, trying get by in life doing relatively small things. Sometimes they are amusing, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes–in small ways- a little bit heroic.

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