What: "The Moving of Lilla Barton."
When: Thursday-May 25.
Where: Cumberland County Playhouse, 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville, Tenn.
When an immovable object meets an unstoppable force, something is bound to happen in the comedy that opens Thursday at Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tenn.
"The Moving of Lilla Barton," though, is no slapstick fare, said director Donald Fann.
The immovable object is the title character, Lilla Barton, who refuses to move from the rectory of All Saints Episcopal Church in Lowndes, Ala., after the death of her minister husband.
The unstoppable force is the group of people who want her out of the way -- including a scheming newspaper editor and a pushy, social-climbing former beauty-queen-turned-real estate mogul -- to make way for the new pastor and his family.
But the issues are deeper than what's on the surface.
"I think there's a lot more humor in it than on an original read," said Fann of John MacNicholas' late 20th-century script. "I call it a human comedy. The humor is there, but there is struggle with bigger issues."
Comedy, he said, is often how people approach the thorny situations in their lives when they don't know how to react.
"That's the way we're approaching it," Fann said. "It's by no means a farce."
The play combines issues including death, bereavement, church politics and the questioning of faith amid its warm comedy.
"I continue to be fascinated by the number of layers -- how strong the script is and how it holds up through metaphors [and creates] back stories for characters," Fann said. "I think that marks a great piece of literature."
The small cast includes Patty Payne, remembered for her role of June Sanders in the Playhouse's "Smoke on the Mountain," as the title character, and former Chattanoogan Jason Ross as the wise and sympathetic Episcopal bishop.
The director said the play has elements of "Driving Miss Daisy" and "First Baptist of Ivy Gap," both of which have been seen on the Crossville stage. "The Moving of Lilla Barton" has not.
"I brought the script to them," Fann said. "It's been on my list of things to do."