‘Mame’ is a most eccentric auntie

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First Posted: 4/22/2013

When young Patrick’s father dies, he goes to live with a most flamboyant relative, someone who believes in embracing life with both hands.

“Life is a banquet,” she’ll say, “and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Come to the stage play “Auntie Mame” at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, director Jennifer Jenkins said, and you’ll meet “all the wonderfully eccentric and colorful characters” who are Mame’s friends, people like Vera Charles, “the English actress from Pittsburgh,” who is passed out at a party when Patrick first meets her.

Generous Mame does love to throw parties, and most of her guests are grown-ups who might use some unusual words and phrases.

“She gives Patrick a little notebook and says ‘I’m going to take you around and introduce you to people, and if you hear any words you don’t understand, you can write them down and we’ll talk about them later.’ It’s a brilliant thing to do for a 10-year-old,” Jenkins said.

Later, he’ll reveal he’s written “Lysistrata,” “bathtub gin” and “free love.”

You can understand why some people might think Auntie Mame is not a good influence on Patrick — even though he adores her.

“Unfortunately, there is a bank trustee who sends him off to a boarding school when Mame is traveling the world with her new husband,” Jenkins said. This will put Patrick in danger of becoming “a stuffy-banker, Connecticut type.”

It will be up to Mame to help Patrick return to “the kind of wonderful person who would write a book about his aunt.”

The story is based on a true one, Jenkins said, and it follows Mame and Patrick Dennis from 1929 through the Depression to 1946.

“One of my favorite moments is Christmas 1929, right after the market crashes. It’s really sweet to see how Mame, even though she’s lost everything, shows her love for her family, which consists of Patrick, her housekeeper and her butler.”