Swamp creatures return with Gil’s Gift

Randy Laine as Sheriff Burl Ledbetter in the Westland UMC production of Gil’s Gift, a family sci-fi spoof.

Phish Camp is a sci-fi spoof about a family of city slickers who become friends with a part-fish/part-man creature (a.k.a., Creature from the Black Lagoon) at a fishing camp in the swamps of South Carolina. I reviewed the play about four years ago when it opened at the Westland United Methodist Church’s Sunnyside Performing Arts Ministry, 110 Dawson Lane in Lebanon, Tenn. The sci-fi spoof is reminiscent of a ‘50s ‘B’ horror flick mixed in with an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Now Phish Camp has a sequel: Gil’s Gift opens in early January to continue the saga of a ‘gilled critter’ and the family who adopted him—taking the Christmas spirit into the New Year.

Local playwright Frank Fox has invented one of the most clever family comedies I’ve come across in many a year with his Phish Camp, and I can’t wait to see the sequel.

Gil’s Gift is another “romp through the swamp of Buzzard Bay, S.C.” This original work written and directed by Fox continues the story of Mac and Betty Phish and their newfound friends from New York, Big Tony and Vera (two fugitives from the Mafia). Andy Griffith look-alike Randy Laine returns in his role as Sheriff Burl Ledbetter—while the Phish daughters, Cat and Star, will be played again by real-life sisters, Sheridan and Kendall Hitchcock.

Sunnyside Performing Arts Ministry (SPAM) patrons will see more of Gil, the local swamp creature. Austin Wingett will don the custom latex and makeup designed by Deron Martel, via Studio D FX. Martel also appears in Gil’s Gift. A SPAM regular, Martel plays alongside his real-life wife, Brendan, who recently completed her Masters degree in theatre at Cumberland University. Big Tony’s brother, Nunzio, shows up in this production, bringing “nuttin’ but trouble,” played by Scott Pulliam. The cast also includes performances by Sara Dhom, Sam Crutcher, and Kenn Stilger.

Show dates continue Friday-Sunday, January 4-6, and Thursday-Saturday, January 10-12. The Jan. 6, Sunday matinee is at 2:30 pm. All other shows begin at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $12, which includes dessert at intermission. For reservations, call 615-549-6808.