Garland Civic Theatre's Beverly Hillbillies is Doggone Funny

Butterfly Connection's Twilight Zone is a Dim Shadow of the Original

The moral of every story on the Hillbillies was that city dwellers—the Drysdales and their ilk—were just as laughably stupid as the hicks from the sticks. The show didn't offend anyone because it skewered both ends of the social spectrum, with sophisticates usually out-thunk by Uncle Jed, who could whittle every dilemma down to some simple solution. In the play he's a step ahead of the FBI in figgerin' out a blackmail plot hatched by a couple of con artists (played by Ben Westfried and Nicole Granville).

Just like on the TV show every week, everything in the stage version turns out fine as frog's hair in the end, with the four main characters waving "Y'all come back now, heah?" to the audience from the mansion's front door. Yep, they keep saying goodbye, but they never really go away.

The greatness that was television in the early 1960s meant that The Beverly Hillbillies and The Twilight Zone could co-exist on the same network, CBS. Rod Serling's Twilight Zone was a brilliant sci-fi anthology that introduced abstract concepts in dramas that always paid off with unexpected, often unsettling twists. Two of the best episodes, both written with Serling, were "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" and the wordless "Two." Those are getting live theater treatment right now by Fort Worth's low-budget Butterfly Connection theater company.

Wee doggies! If it ain’t right purty Arielle Engle as Elly May Clampett and
Dan Tillman as her Uncle Jed in Garland Civic Theatre’s Beverly Hillbillies.
Wee doggies! If it ain’t right purty Arielle Engle as Elly May Clampett and Dan Tillman as her Uncle Jed in Garland Civic Theatre’s Beverly Hillbillies.

In a makeshift space inside a rundown strip of offices, the BC "theater" is a few rows of plastic patio chairs in front of poles draped with black fabric. But even in a no-frills production, the power of Serling's writing comes through, especially in "Maple Street," set in a neighborhood worried about the threat of a possible UFO. Rumors fly, guns are fired and it turns into a cautionary tale about a Second Red Scare (or, in more contemporary terms, a second 9/11). "Two" is a post-apocalyptic fable about the last man and woman on Earth, enemy combatants who can't quite overcome their distrust of each other.

Directed by Jaime Kinser and Shawn Gann, the plays are best when they're being as abstract as Serling's work. Backlit puppet shapes complement the eerie tone of "Maple Street." Stylized movement replaces camerawork in "Two."

The performances, however, are awkward and amateurish. In their homage to Serling's "land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas," these performers never quite step all the way into the zone.

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