When artistic director Eric Schaeffer set about casting the roles of Miss Mona and Sheriff Ed Earl in Signature Theatre's season opener, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," he chose two seasoned favorites, Sherri L. Edelen and Thomas Simpson, to head the cast of twenty-four. The fact that they are husband and wife in real life contributes to the merriment.
"Being in the same show is a big advantage," Simpson said. "We can work on things during the drive to and from the theater and hold informal discussions at home. Sherri is playing Miss Mona as a great business woman. Mona is rule-oriented and sets up a list of rules for everyone to follow."
"I don't know any madams and this is the first time I've had a role like this," Edelen put in. "I usually play more vulnerable characters, although I did play a prostitute in 'Cabaret.' Mona's philosophy is, if you're gonna run a bordello, then you have to do it in a business-like way."
"And she does," Simpson adds in a voice that might belong to a gun-slinging, badge-wearing Texan. Instead, his accent is a product of Virginia. "Most of my Southern accent was beat out of me in acting school, but it's still easy for me to slide into something more comfortable as the occasion arises. Sheriff Ed Earl is such a great guy to play. He has sort of a foul mouth and loves to cuss a blue streak, but he's crazy about the outdoors, hunting dogs and fishing, and he's a sports fan. Most of all, he loves his work to serve and protect the public."
|'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'|
|Where: Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington|
|When: Through October 7|
|Info: See website for ticket prices; "Drop Your Drawers" discount throughout run for charitable clothing and hygienic donations; 703-573-SEAT; signature-theatre.org|
Along with the singing and dancing to a country band, the story line of "The Best Little Whorehouse ..." offers a witty undercurrent of truth by taking digs at today's culture with its political scandals, censorship, moral hypocrisy and the media focus on non-important events that leap to the forefront.
When they are not performing, Edelen and Simpson may be found enjoying nature on their 10 acres in Stafford County. Next spring, the couple will star together in the Roundhouse Theatre production of "I Do, I Do." But for now, they are having a ball with "The Best Little Whorehouse ..." script, the music and the set.
"This production is the first one after the 2001 road tour starring Ann-Margaret to include 'A Friend to Me,' a new song by Carol Hall," Edelen points out. "Eric always wanted to do this show and use that song, the last one in the show. The audience will love everything about this show, including the set with the longhorn steers across the back wall and the 20 fans hanging down and slowly turning above them."