Love & laughs: Comedy arrives in time for Valentine’s Day

Sometimes, a stage role flows as naturally as one smooth scene to the next.

Or so it is for Columbus’ Naomi Fleetwood Pyle, with a rural, down-home speaking style and a manner as warm and comfortable as a perfect pair of slippers.

“I can do Southern pretty well,” Pyle said. “I just tap into my inner Paula Deen.”

She will do something slightly like that as the title character in the comic dinner theater production, “’Til Beth Do Us Part,” to be presented this weekend and next at Hope’s Strawberry Fields Mercantile/Auntie Aimee’s Tea Room.

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She also serves as producer of the show directed by Hope’s Pete Law, who also acts in the production.

Pyle and Law joined forces last fall for the dinner theater presentation of the classic “Steel Magnolias,” which drew more than 600 patrons in two weekends that included an added show to accommodate the demand. Pyle was careful to mention that, this time, expectations must be slightly different.

“That (success) was partly because everybody in the world knows ‘Steel Magnolias,’” Pyle said. “But we understand that not many people have heard of ‘’Til Beth Do Us Part.’”

The story focuses on a career-driven wife who enlists the help of Beth as an assistant to put the wife’s home life in order. But Beth stirs up the entire household, including the wife’s husband, in the process.

The play is from the same writers of “The Dixie Swim Club,” performed by Pyle and others in November 2012 at Columbus’ Harlequin Theatre in FairOaks Mall. She saw that work as laugh-out-loud funny — and sees the current piece in the same light.

She said she believes diners at the tea room see humor as a good side dish to restaurant owner and cook Tracy Fugate’s serious fixings.

“I just think laughter is really good for you,” Pyle said, adding that audience members see it as making the meal more enjoyable.

Director Law said he loves the chance to handle a more direct comedy, since “Steel Magnolias” offered its share of seriousness and sadness amid the laughs.

“I love making people laugh,” Law said. “As an actor, I definitely feel like that’s my strong point.”

He studies the work of comedic stars such as Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy to polish his technique.

“I love their delivery,” Law said.

He added that he feels sure audiences will appreciate the upcoming performance, which he, Pyle and current cast member Sherrie King-Wittenbring presented in Brownstown three years ago.

“There were some scenes,” he said, “where we couldn’t easily go on to the next scene because one of us was nearly laughing.”

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What: Dinner theater presentation of the comedy, “‘Til Beth Do Us Part,” directed by Pete Law and produced by Naomi Fleetwood Pyle.

When: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday; and 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 and 1:30 p.m. Feb. 15.

Where: Strawberry Fields Mercantile/Auntie Aimee’s Tea Room, on the square in Hope.

Tickets: $25 per person, including a meal with a meat entree, potatoes, vegetable and cobbler dessert.

Information and reservations (must be paid in advance): 812-546-0640 or 812-372-1201.