Word is getting around after the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday for the Pierre Players’ current show that it’s more than a hilarious comedy — it’s also a drama. “Make me laugh until I cry” is a challenge that is not only accepted but fulfilled.

Seventeen actors showed their final dress rehearsal of “A Little Piece of Heaven” on family and friends night — the official opening performance came on Friday. Though not a Halloween play, it does have an eerie, feel-good aura reminiscent of the television series “Good Witch.”

“I love plays that cover all the emotions, and this one does that,” Director Kathy Riedy said. “I just really like the story it tells. It does make you think about why things happen the way they do. To quote from the play, ‘I wish I knew, but then maybe I don’t.’”

Actors Mark Hiatt and Katie Williamson start the laughter with their characters’ constant bickering and jabbing, though tongue-in-cheek in a loving relationship. Their little shop is a tourist, antique and novelty combination of used treasures. In a more-frequent-than-not repetition, any given item could help a customer “to find a piece of their lives they thought were lost,” Williamson’s character said.

“I decided to keep track of the hours spent auditioning, reading lines and rehearsing this show,” Hiatt said. “As of the preview show, I’ve invested 180 hours since picking up a script in August. I’ve told a lot of people that I just like to go home in the evenings, and I don’t like to try to memorize lines anymore. I’ve learned that a person should never say never.”

Motorcycle and financial troubles maroon Dan Bohman’s character in town. Some audience members might take glee in that any colorful cuss word attempting to exit his mouth instead makes him gag and choke mysteriously.

“Complete opposites,” Bohman said about comparing the character to himself. “I am definitely not a biker — you don’t want me to even sit on one. The script intrigued me — the conversion of two paths, both lost, both help each other to find their way. A great story.”

And the two paths converge between a tall, rough biker who meets a scarily stern older woman. The character played by LeeAnn Smith starts strong. Comically, Bohman’s physical height towers over her while she looks almost straight up and intimidates him.

“I like the character,” Smith said. “I am playing an old woman, but we are a lot alike. I love her attitude. Each character has grown and changed — the depth is impressive.”

While the mystery of the shop and the clash of the two characters dominate the action, the other characters add more laughter and bewilderment. The show is kid-friendly, with the littlest girl — alternatingly played by actresses Abigail Stanley and Acacia Kahler — possibly the most viciously conniving character.

Whether Helen Squyer’s performance as the town’s mail carrier on the prowl for a man, or Phil Sheffield’s portrayal of a man on the edge about turning 50 years old as his wife, played by Keri Munterfering, throws a surprise party — which she quietly threatens him to love — the characters have plenty of material to develop their identities on stage.

And the performers’ hard work in bringing the characters to life isn’t lost on Riedy.

“It is always interesting to watch the actors grow with their characters,” she said. “We do some character development activities early on to help with that process, but usually, as we rehearse, we continue to learn new things about the characters and the story overall. That alternate world can really become part of you. And I love watching first-time actors learn the ropes, gain confidence and get hooked on theatre.”

Del Bartels | 605-224-7301

Reporter Del Bartels, a born and raised South Dakotan and a graduate from Black Hills State University, was the editor of a weekly newspaper for 17 years.

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