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Brooke Hills Playhouse Announces Cast For ‘Red Velvet Cake War’

Russ Welch and Kara Zanes rehearse for the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of "The Red Velvet Cake War."

WELLSBURG — The Brooke Hills Playhouse has announced the cast for “The Red Velvet Cake War,” a comedy by the team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday for two weekends, Aug. 21-22 and Aug. 28-29, and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30 at the Playhouse, located in Brooke Hills Park, five miles east of Wellsburg, off W.Va. 27.

“Because of the ever-changing situation with the COVID-19 virus, we will be listening to Brooke County’s Health Inspector, Mike Bolen, for government recommendations,” said Diana Mendel of Wellsburg, director of the show. “We are asking patrons to call or text the Playhouse at 304-737-3344 for reservations. Seating will be limited and we will follow social distancing.”

The Playhouse’s 49th season is sponsored by Municipal Mutual Insurance Company and by Traubert’s Pharmacy of Wellsburg.

The story of “The Red Velvet Cake War” centers around the wild preparations for the Verdeen family reunion in the wake of a recent family scandal, a parade of eccentric Verdeen kinfolk, a looming tornado and a competition to make the best version of the title cake. Jones, Hope and Wooten’s comedies have graced the Playhouse stage for many years, most recently with “Farce of Habit” in 2018.

The cast includes many veterans of the Playhouse and other area community theaters. Three actresses very familiar to Brooke Hills audiences will play the three female Verdeen cousins at the center of the family storm, with ReGina Pino of Steubenville portraying Peaches Verdeen Belrose, Connie Knollinger-Wendel of Glen Dale in the role of Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen and Sheila Cavalette of Weirton playing Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen.

The trio has to deal with assorted relatives, including their self-righteous aunt, LaMerle Verdeen Minshew, played by Kimberly Winters of Follansbee. She is matched against Russ Welch of Wellsburg, who has been cast as the easy-going family patriarch Uncle Aubrey Verdeen.

Sarah Elizabeth Tennant of Follansbee will play psychologist Elsa Dowdall, appointed by the court to help Gaynelle Bodeen deal with the anger issues that led to the scandal casting a pall over the Verdeen family reunion. Rob DeSantis of Follansbee has the role of would-be ladies man Newt Blaylock. Crystal Sharma of Bethany will portray prissy, over-the-top neighbor Bitsy Hargis.

Kara Zanes of Tiltonsville has the dual role of forgetful neighbor Mama Doll Hargis and local cable TV hostess Cee Cee Windham. One other cast member plays two parts: Joseph Pino of Steubenville will portray both local lawman Sheriff Grover Lout and self-appointed family photographer Purvis Verdeen.

According to Julia Barnhart of Wellsburg, president of the Playhouse’s parent organization, the Brooke County Arts Council, season passes for 2020 can be used for this year and for 2021.

“This is our 49th season, and we are actively working on our 50th,” she said.

Reservations are available by calling or texting the Playhouse at 304-737-3344, and are necessary, due to limited seating and social distancing.

The Playhouse’s “Save the Barn 2” campaign is continuing on FaceBook. All money raised will be used to pay utility bills and to maintain the pre-Civil War apple barn that has been the Playhouse’s home since 1972. Barnhart reported that a challenge has been issued to anyone involved with the Playhouse from 1972 to the present.

Contributions in any amount to “Save the Barn 2” may be sent to P. O. Box 186, Wellsburg, WV 26070, writing “Save the Barn” on the memo line of a check or money order. Checks should be made out to the Brooke County Arts Council or BCAC.

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