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Church Basement Ladies serve up humor in Columbia
Church based musical sequel returns for run at Fallon House Theatre
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Becky Saunders, Nancy OBryan and Caitlin Randall are responsible for laughs in the church basement in Columbia. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Silly fun.

That's what's in store for those who head to the Fallon House in Columbia State Historic Park for "A Second Helping, The Church Basement Ladies Sequel." The production, which runs through June 8, is Sierra Repertory Theatre's answer to the success of last year's production of Church Basement Ladies.

A cast of five pull off the Lutheran church kitchen based musical comedy that celebrates the unsung women who work behind the scenes - often while missing the real activity of the church. The play is set in 1969 and 1970 in Minnesota and reflects how the women are forced to go along with change while wrestling their desires to stick with strict religious upbringing. There's the prudish and uptight matriarch, Mrs. Lars Snustad (played by Caitlin Randall) who runs the show and garners laughs for her awkward misuse of terms. Then there is the next-in-line Karin Engelson (Nancy O'Bryan) waiting to take the reins. Her daughter and the young mom-to-be Beverly Signe Hauge (Paige Herschell of Los Angeles) provides comic interjections while community historian Mavis Gilmerson (played by Becky Saunders) who can rattle off everyone's lineage -- as soon as her hot flash passes.

SRT audiences first met the ladies last year when they brought the house down in Church Basement Ladies, based on the best-selling book "Growing Up Lutheran" by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. Why so popular? You don't have to be Lutheran to relate.

"The thing people respond to is the friendship of the ladies," said Sara Jones, SRT's managing director. "The playwrights just have such a lovely grasp on the women and what's funny and heartwarming about their relationships."

Ryan William Bailey plays the church's dry and far-from-hip pastor who pops into the kitchen throughout the play in an honest attempt to relate to a world of women he doesn't quite get while being pulled back to the church activity of the moment, such as a slide show presentation by missionaries or an out-of-control youth gathering.

The younger set will probably want to skip this play as it is clearly best fitted for older audiences who can relate to church life or those who lived the 1970s. There is no understandable plot except laughs as women struggle with their own significance as servants or how or if they should move with the times. The songs, although lively and fun, are at times corny.

"It's really about the small societies that build themselves to support the greater institutions," Jones said. "It's fun - lovely, silly fun."

Tickets are $26 to $32. For more information or reservations, call Sierra Rep's box office at 209-532-3120 or visit Sierra Rep at