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'Dear James' will leave you wanting to know more about main character

By Christina Killion Valdez

ckillion@postbulletin.com

PLAINVIEW -- A peek into the pious life of Agatha McGee turns out to be a charming, and not so saintly, look at a real woman in "Dear James."

The play, based on the novel by Jon Hassler and adapted for the stage by artistic director Sally Childs, opened this weekend at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview.

At the age of 70, McGee, who has an untarnished reputation as a teacher and member of the library board for 34 years, finds herself without the bustle of work for the first time in her life.

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Left idle, her hands get her into a bit of a boil.

Away in Rome on a church trip, McGee is reunited with her soul mate who can never be, Father James O'Hannon. At the same time, her house sitter's nosey friend is united with a stack of letters O'Hannon sent McGee over the years.

The letters reveal McGee's honest but judgmental view of almost all everyone in her small Minnesota hometown of Staggerford.

On her return from Rome, McGee discovers that the residents didn't appreciate her honesty, and she must now try to regain her status in the community.

Denise duMaurier plays McGee with the charm, grace, warmth, humility, humor and holier than thou attitude Hassler meant for her. Hassler has written three novels on McGee's life.

Sheldon Goldstein plays O'Hannon with a power and wisdom that sweeps up the audience as well as McGee.

Dale Pfeilsticker, who plays the handyman and house sitter, is revealing even with few lines. And Julie Ann Nevill crawls right under McGee's skin as the house sitter's friend, the nosey and tactless Imogene Kite.

Childs' endearing stage adaptation leaves anyone who hasn't picked up the books curious enough about Miss McGee to hunt her up at the library.

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"Dear James" runs through July 7 at the Jon Hassler Theater, 412 W. Broadway in Plainview. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays and 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $9 for students. For reservations call (507) 534-2900.

For more information, visit www.jonhasslertheater.org.

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