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Driving for laughs (Video and Photo Gallery)

It's comedy by the mile in Theatre Albany's 'Mama Won't Fly'

Theatre Albany presents the comedy "Mama Won't Fly," a cross-country journey into laughter featuring Jennifer Bowers as Savannah, Joy Johnson as her meddling mom Norleen and Kelly Mullins as her soon-to-be sister-in-law Haley. Curtain times are 8 p.m. March 21-22 and 27-29, and 2:30 p.m. March 23 and 30. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave.


Bride-to-be Haley Quinn (Kelly Mullins, center with veil) finds she is the primary suspect in the untimely cheese-related death of her soon-to-be in-laws' Great-Aunt Pawnee. From left are Kathleen Stroup (Aunt Rema Jean), Joy Johnson (who plays prospective mother-in-law Norleen Sprunt), Jennifer Bowers (prospective sister-in-law Savannah) and Lloyd Saxon (Cousin Chicken). (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)

Bride-to-be Haley Quinn (Kelly Mullins, center with veil) finds she is the primary suspect in the untimely cheese-related death of her soon-to-be in-laws' Great-Aunt Pawnee. From left are Kathleen Stroup (Aunt Rema Jean), Joy Johnson (who plays prospective mother-in-law Norleen Sprunt), Jennifer Bowers (prospective sister-in-law Savannah) and Lloyd Saxon (Cousin Chicken). (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)

Video

Theatre Albany: 'Mama Won't Fly'

Theatre Albany presents the comedy "Mama Won't Fly," a cross-country journey into laughter featuring Jennifer Bowers as Savannah, Joy Johnson as her meddling mom Norleen and Kelly Mullins as her soon-to-be sister-in-law Haley. Curtain times are 8 p.m. March 21-22 and 27-29, and 2:30 p.m. March 23 and 30. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave.

Theatre Albany presents the comedy "Mama Won't Fly," a cross-country journey into laughter featuring Jennifer Bowers as Savannah, Joy Johnson as her meddling mom Norleen and Kelly Mullins as her soon-to-be sister-in-law Haley. Curtain times are 8 p.m. March 21-22 and 27-29, and 2:30 p.m. March 23 and 30. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave.

ALBANY — It turns out a lot of funny things can happen on a road trip.

At least, they’re funny when you look back on them.

And that idea — people traveling in close quarters for an extended period of time — has been a staple of comedy writers for decades. Buddies traveling together hit the silver screen most famously with the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby series of globetrotting “Road” films, with the Griswald family led by Chevy Chase picking up the baton in the 1980s with a series of “Vacation” films by National Lampoon.

Cell phone users can see the video by clicking HERE.

On Friday, the curtain will go up on “Mama Won’t Fly,” a cross-country drive that gets a lot of comedy mileage from misadventures along the way that will be played out on the stage of Theatre Albany.

“We all love road movies,” Theatre Albany Artistic Director Mark Costello, who will helm the play, said in an interview last week. “This (play) is sort of in that genre.”

'MAMA WON'T FLY'

WHO: Theatre Albany

WHAT: Cross-country travel comedy written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and March 27-29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and March 30

WHERE: Theatre Albany, 514 Pine Ave.

TICKETS: $20, adults; $15, seniors; $10, students and active military

INFORMATION: Box office is (229) 439-7141, or Click here for theater website

The play opens in Alabama, with Savannah Sprunt Fairchild Honeycutt (portrayed by Jennifer Bowers) arriving at the home of her mother, Norleen Sprunt (Joy Johnson), for the trip to the airport.

“They’re going to go to her big brother’s — Norleen’s son’s — wedding in Santa Monica, Calif.,” Costello said.

At the house, Savannah runs into Denton (one of five characters played by Lloyd Saxon), and jumps to the conclusion that her mom is trying to set her up with an older guy. The twice-divorced Savannah can be excused for the confusion because setting her up with men has become a personal mission for her mom.

While it turns out Denton’s only there to do work on Norleen’s car, that sets Savannah up for the biggest complication of all — Norleen has no intention of boarding a jetliner. She’s had her old Buick fixed up for a reason.

“Her mother informs her that they’re going to drive to California,” Costello said.

Which is something Savannah refuses to do … until Norleen sends her on another trip — a guilt trip.

Meanwhile, Walker — the erstwhile groom — has promised his mom and little sister a big surprise. Savannah has hardly had time to digest the idea of a four-day drive to the wedding when that big surprise arrives in the form of Haley Quinn (Kelly Mullins) — Walker’s fiancee, who is eager to get married and excited over the opportunity to get to know her pending in-laws.

“So they start off,” Costello said. “Savannah’s big problem with her mother is she’s always meddling with her life. … They’re just getting into it, but Savannah’s having problems with it. The trip’s already too long.”

It’s a hilarious race against the clock and, at times, against each other.

What follows are thousands of miles of mishaps, misunderstandings and disasters as the trio runs into trouble after trouble, taking side trips to see “wacky relatives” and odd strangers like a drunken costumer who took the wardrobe with her when she was fired from a community theater, taking in sights like the American Museum of Foundation Garments and its 80-year-old curator who apparently takes style cues from Madonna, and witness a raucous showgirl-officiated Las Vegas wedding that’s unusual even by Vegas standards. On top of everything else, their car gets stolen and they hitch a ride on an 18-wheeler.

Oh, and Haley’s the prime murder suspect when one of her soon-to-be relatives dies, leading her to disappear and sending Savannah and Norleen into a panicked search. Not only do they have to find Haley, they have to convince her that the whole marriage idea isn’t a mistake.

While Mullins, Johnson and Bowers maintain the same characters throughout the play, the other performers have multiple roles. Lloyd leads the group, playing five different characters, while Costello takes on three roles in addition to his job as director. The remaining members of the cast — Kathleen Stroup, Leigh Ann Young and Vickie Lewis — each take on at least two roles.

That, Costello said, was the intent of the playwrights — Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.

“That’s way it’s written,” he said. “The authors intended for the actors to play multiple roles.”

It’s a family friendly journey for the audience and characters alike. “By the end of the trip,” Costello said, “Savannah has a better understanding of her mother.”

The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Friday at the theater, 514 Pine Ave. Performances are also scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, as well as 8 p.m. March 27-29 and 2:30 p.m. March 23 and 30. Tickets, which go on sale Tuesday, are $20, adults; $15, seniors, and $10, students and active military. Contact (229) 439-7141 or visit www.theatrealbany.com.