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'Christmas Belles' rings with laughs, family truths
Christmas Belles' Honey Ray (Cyndi Evans), Rhonda Lynn (Karen Ruetz) and Twink(Tara Freeman) recounting a Christmas caper3 - photo by Jessica Smith

Hark the New Depot Players' "Christmas Belles," written by the Southern comedic force Jones Hope Wooten, rings in the holiday with a zany Christmas caper.

The relatively large cast's relish for the dialogue, situations and one another is obvious. It's an irresistible escape, especially during this demanding time of year. The play revolves around the Futrelle sisters of Fayro, Texas, who all are facing unique challenges. They will make your brand of seasonal anxieties and family dysfunctions seem relatively mild in comparison.

In an effort to rehabilitate her reputation as the town temptress, Honey Raye, played with absolute ownership by Cyndi Evans, signs on to direct the Tabernacle's annual Christmas play. To distinguish her brand from the previous 27 years, she takes some licenses with the familiar narrative. Among many difficulties facing her are casting, her "flirtations" rule out most male candidates and interference from her nemesis the former director, Miss Geneva, inhabited by Lorna Shea with zeal.

Honey Raye's sisters bring their own complications to the mix. Twink, played perfectly by the feisty Tara Freeman, is imprisoned for collateral arson damage when her revenge against a cheating ex goes awry. The third Futrelle sister, Frankie, is not only harboring a deep secret from her sisters, but is nine months pregnant with twins. As the comparative straight woman Frankie, Amy Johnson has wonderful chemistry with her sisters and plays the exasperated pregnant wife with keen balance.

The mature expectant mother has adult children and a husband suffering from kidney stones and unreliable employment as Fayro's discount Santa and unwitting pageant star. That role is played by Paul Casola, who's become the genius of goofballs. Right up there with another deft funny man, Scott Mills, who plays the local sheriff caught in the Futrelle sisters' crosshairs and a reluctant impersonator. Veteran NDP member Patrick Telley is the heart of "Bethlehem-palooza" as Raynerd Chism, a Christmas-obsessed man-child with a rare spin on shepherds.

The cast is rounded out delightfully by other Honey Raye irritants - Rhonda Lynn, a meddling newcomer, played by Karen Ruetz, and Patsy Price, a haughty know-it-all, played by Renée Chahoy. There's also a winning young love subplot between Frankie's daughter, Gina Jo, and a moonlighting preacher, played respectively by Katy Durham and Noah Alwes.

"It's a light-hearted look at family during the holiday season when all the hustle and bustle can sometimes overshadow the things that are important. And, sometimes the reminders of what it's truly about come from the most unexpected places," said Director Tom Johnson, " It's a fun little show that will definitely silence the Grinches and chase away your holiday blues."

The play previewed Thursday at 8 p.m. and runs December 5 - 7 & 12 - 14 at 8 p.m. and December 8 and 15 at 3 p.m. at Center Street Arts, 910 Center Street in Conyers. Visit or call (678)374-3224 to purchase tickets. Adult tickets are $20, with a senior and student rate of $16. Join the New Depot Players Facebook page for the occasional special offer.