What happens when an 80-year-old woman struggles financially - and finds herself in jail, where three squares and a cot look pretty good?

The answer, is "Welfarewell" this summer's satire which opens Saturday, July 8, at The Playmakers of Grove.

The production, written by Cat Delany, will run on selected dates through Saturday, July 22, at the theatre on Third Street.

The play, which features an all-female cast of characters, sans one, talks about the challenge of living on "not-so-fixed incomes," and follows a central character, Esmerelda Quipp, a former actress, who has a "sound mind" but comes "with a body that is beginning to come unglued."

Pushed out of the entertainment industry because of her age, she now faces life on a government pension that, does not meet her basic needs.

Essie, played by Karon Wheat, as she is known by friends, decides to fight back.

The determination to find solutions to her problems, is what drew Wheat to the lead role in this production.

"I thought it would be fun to follow this lady through the play," Wheat said. "She's her own person. She figures out things.

"She's a little off the wall, but I like that creativity."

Essie/Wheat is joined by an assortment of characters on her adventures, which includes a stint in the local jail when she's arrested for trying to bury her dead pet in the wrong spot.

Others in the play include Susan Bass, who portrays a wife attempting to murder her husband, Ashley Davidson and Vicki King, who portray hookers, Ruby Moon, a notorious shoplifter, Dodi Manley, a police woman, Meisha Vigil, a young social worker, Sara Kaufman, the landlady and board member for the local Shakespeare festival, Sunny Uttley and Kennedy Tackkett, two bankers, and OvaJean Siemens, the judge. The lone male actor, Randall Hendricks, serves as Essie's public defender.

About the production

Susanne Boles, artistic executive with the Playmakers, said the production is a satire, which lampoons a serious subject - poverty. 

She chose to present a comedy laced with satire after the success last summer of Exit Laughing. 

"We discovered we could [draw] a nice summer, adult crowd for a laugh-out-loud comedy," Boles said. "The theme of the play is that aging people often have a hard time living on a government pension. We hope they don't do what [Essie] did, but that's what makes [the play] funny."

Essie, who first lands in jail because she tries to bury her dead pet in her yard, later turns to bank robbery to return to jail - in an effort to get three square meals and a bed, without worry.

There she meets four "jailbirds" (Davidson, King, Moon and Bass), who all landed in jail for a variety of financially-based decisions. 

"There's a lot of social issues in the play," Boles said. "I like comedies that have something meaty in them."

Boles said she hopes guests walk away laughing, but also think about the social issues that impact those around them, a little deeper.

More about Essie

Wheat said she learned several lessons from Essie, including how age is simply a number. Instincts and smarts play a large role in Essie's success.

"She's able to have a pretty accurate assessment of others," Wheat said. "Which helps her figure things out, and solve her problems accordingly.

Like Boles, Wheat hopes theatre goers will take away more than laughs from the play.

"I hope they become a little more aware of people they walk past in the stores or on the street," Wheat said. "I hope they understand that sometimes what they see, in the first vision, is not necessary all there is to see. That there is more to it than that."

Wheat said performing with a primarily female cast was happenstance. She credits the reason behind the writer wanting to show a variety of issues - especially those which impact women. 

"Everyone has worked really hard to draw into their character," Wheat said. 

If You Go

Welfarewell takes place at the Playmakers' Theatre at 121 West Third Street, Grove.

Performances include: Fridays, July 14 and 21, Saturdays, July 8, 15 and 22, Sundays, July 9 and 16, and Tuesday July 11.

All performances start at 7:30 p.m., with an exception for the Sunday matinees, which are at 2 p.m. Additional performances may be added if warranted or if reserved for groups.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for students. Group prices are available as are discounted ‘pay what you can’ tickets.

The minimum age guideline for this production is middle school and above, based on the appropriateness of the play and the capability of the student to understand the adult content.

Since this is a strong guideline, not a rule, patrons are encouraged to talk with the box office volunteer when making reservations about bringing younger students.

Children 4 years and under are not admitted to Playmaker productions unless the play is specifically intended for that age group.

The Playmakers do not have paper tickets, people may reserve tickets by calling 918-786-8950 and leaving a message for a box office volunteer, by emailing groveplaymakers@yahoo.com or visiting www.groveplaymakers.com. Additional information about the production may be found at www.facebook.com/groveplaymakers.

Looking Ahead

Volunteers at the Playmakers in Grove are looking for a few "good men and women" to star in the September performance of If All The Sky Were Paper, by Andrew Carroll.

Performance will take place Friday, Sept. 15 to Saturday, Sept. 30, on Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesdays evenings and Sunday matinees.

Actors who can look and act as if they are in the 20s or 30s, are needed. Veterans in this age group are encouraged to participate.

No memorization is required by most of the cast. It is more of a dramatic readers theatre.

About the play

The drama is based on Carroll's New York Times bestselling books, "War Letters" and "Behind the Lines," and features the best of his Legacy Project’s never-before-seen letters.

It was taken from actual letters penned by troops and their loved ones. From the drama of the human experience in battle to the pathos and humor of everyday life on the war front and the home front, audiences learn from the correspondence of those caught up in the war experience.

Letters in the production range from the American Revolution and Civil War to both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and present day Iraq and Afghanistan. It also includes letters from people from other countries caught up in wars.

The production will coincide with Carroll's visit to Grove in September, to gather letters for his newest collection. Grove is the only Oklahoma stop on this campaign.

Families with letters they wish to donate to the collection, which is housed and displayed at Chapman University in Orange, California, may bring them to Carroll during a variety of events during his stay in Grove. Additional details about Carroll's efforts may be found at www.warletters.com.

Production details

A few rehearsals will be set in July with the director, helping individual members of the cast learn to dramatically, emotionally or even comically deliver "letters" from servicemen and women and families back home.

Major rehearsals will begin in August, with staging and audio/visual effects being integrated into the production. The Playmakers usually rehearse Tuesday and Thursdays nights each week, plus Sunday afternoons or evenings, depending on schedules of the cast, but this rehearsal schedule will not begin until August for the majority of the cast.

For more information, or to discuss an audition, persons interested may contact Suzanne Boles at 918-786-5871.