'Casserole Patrol': CCT serves up laughs (and dinner theater) when one small town's single women go after the same fellow

July 18, 2012 9:38:07 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


If the way to a man's heart isn't actually through his stomach, the women of the "Casserole Patrol" will be sorely disappointed. Food is the heavy artillery in their quest to win the affections of the recently-widowed "Colonel," the newest eligible man in their little town.


The resulting antics play out in this amusing play written by Laura Cole Thrash and presented by the Columbus Community Theatre and the Columbus Arts Council July 26-29.


"As soon as they hear the colonel has lost his wife, all the ladies are out to win him over with food -- because it sure isn't going to be by their beauty, if you know what I'm saying," laughs cast member Midge Maloney, who plays "Tiltsie." Like most of her castmates, Maloney portrays a single woman of "a certain maturity." Experimenting with "aging" makeup and costuming is part of the fun.



"Here, girl, you need some more lines on your face," she says, drawing crow's feet on "Gracie" (Gwin Edie) before a recent rehearsal at the Omnova Theater inside the Rosenzweig Arts Center, in downtown Columbus.


When Director Linda Bobbitt calls "Act I, Scene I," the actors -- 11 women and three men -- give their lines a last, quick look as they settle into their characters.


Culinary comfort


As the play begins, we learn the colonel's luckless wife has met with an ill-fated accident involving a mule and the Udderly Delicious ice cream truck. But if "Tiltsie" and her friends have anything to say about it, the colonel won't be lonely for long. And he certainly won't go hungry.


"This comedy written by Laura Cole Thrash from Philadelphia, Mississippi, and set in a small Southern town is inspired by the tradition of women bringing casseroles to widowers, in hopes of sparking a new romance," explains Bobbitt.


Unfortunately for the colonel, these cooks' efforts could use some help.


Each character has her (or his) own quirks and peculiarities.


"I'm the floozy," drawls Vicki Hill, who plays "Manzie Lou." "I'm the one all the other girls are jealous of," she says, with an outrageous flutter of her eyelashes.


Terry Coffey plays the gruff, "uncouth" "Earnestine."


"It took a lot of courage to draw on this mustache, I want you to know," grins Coffey, a long-time educator who studied theater in college. "Earnestine's done her time; she's been single the longest of all the women, so she feels she deserves the colonel."


"But we're all convinced we're going to get him," smiles Hill, a retired teacher acting in her first role.


Bobbitt has directed numerous community theater productions in the past, but each one is a new adventure.


"I love this group of people. It's so much fun to work with them because they have such a good time," she says. "We've got some great newcomers and then some who have been with CCT for many years, and some who have acted elsewhere, but this is their first CCT experience. We even have two husband/wife teams in Terry and David Coffey and Lisa and Tracy Wright."


"Casserole Patrol" is the first CCT production to hit the stage after an extended hiatus. All the volunteers are glad to have see the theater group active again.


"The value of community theater is inestimable," states Coffey. "It brings people from every background together, working toward a common goal to bring something to the community. And the camaraderie is so unique."



Dinner theater


The "Casserole Patrol" cooks may need to practice a bit more in the kitchen, but fortunately the production's dinner theater audiences July 27 and 28 will enjoy a menu of a higher standard. Gail Gunter and Ina Walters are culinary coordinators for the event


"We'll have a selection of delicious casseroles audience members can choose from," explains Walters. "And there will be veggies, bread and desserts, all made by cast members and other volunteers from the community who are generously donating their expertise."


The play's run originally had one dinner theater performance. When that sold out quickly, a second dinner theater evening was added. Reservations are required in advance for the dinner performances.



How to go


Tickets are $10 in advance (and $12 at the door) for the Thursday, July 26, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 29, 2 p.m. performances.


Advance tickets for the 7 p.m. dinner theater presentations are $20. Tickets are available at the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St., or online at columbus-arts.org. For more information, contact the CAC at 662-328-2787.






1 chicken (boiled and deboned) (Can also use canned chicken breast pieces)


2 cans mixed vegetables


1 cup onion (chopped)


1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese


1/2 cup mayonnaise


1 stick margarine


1 tube Ritz crackers (crushed)



  • Mix all vegetables in a casserole dish with mayonnaise, onion, cheese and chicken.


  • Melt margarine and mix with crushed Ritz crackers. Sprinkle cracker mixture on top of casserole.


  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


    (Source: Vicki Hill)






    1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck


    1 medium onion (chopped)


    1/2 green pepper


    1 can stewed tomatoes (14 1/2 ounces)


    1 can tomato soup (undiluted)


    1 can pork and beans


    1 can light red kidney beans (do not drain)


    1 teaspoon salt


    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


    1 teaspoon pepper


    1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese



  • Brown the first three ingredients in an iron skillet and drain grease.


  • Add the remaining ingredients and bake in a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish with cover at 350 degrees for one hour.


  • Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top and melt. Serve with salad and rolls for a delicious meal.


    (Source: Vicki Hill)






    Cooked rice (1 cup dry)


    1 pound ground sausage, browned and drained (or less, if desired)


    1 sweet vidalia-type onion


    Several garlic pods (or garlic powder to taste)


    1 egg


    Cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (cream of mushroom preferred)


    4 ounces cheddar cheese


    4 ounces mozzarella cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)


    Parmesan cheese


    1 package frozen spinach (or frozen broccoli, if preferred)


    Nature's Seasoning



  • Cook rice according to package directions.


  • Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil (not much, just enough to keep onion from burning) until clear and light brown.


  • Brown sausage, cooking thoroughly. Drain on a paper towel (or rinse in hot water to remove additional grease.)


  • Thaw spinach under cool running water or, if using broccoli, thaw enough to break apart.


  • In a baking dish, combine rice, sausage, spinach or broccoli, soup, and three-fourths of the cheese. Season with Nature's Seasoning, to taste, after adding soup.


  • Scramble one egg in a bowl with a splash of milk or fat-free half-and-half. Mix thoroughly into mixture.


  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Take out and add remaining cheese on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cook for 20 more minutes.


    (Source: Terry Gargano Coffey, "Mama Gargano's Family Recipe Book"; adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe)


    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.