By Mandi Donohue

There’s always a hiccup in winter that taunts the summer lovers and torments the winter contingent. The weather gets a little warmer and suddenly the skies are blazing blue, the piercing sun melting everything like a superhero’s gaze.

You’d think the weather was tropical as extra joggers take to Lost River Road and panicked rock climbers, afraid to get behind, start making plans. At our house, the snow shoots down our roof like the sound of grenades to our cats, and we laugh as they pinball off of the kitchen cupboards and under the refrigerator for safety. We watch the final trails of ice hanging off the roof like thick strands of pasta. And just as we begin to dream about bike trips to Winthrop and fresh greens out of the garden, reminiscing about the crunch of our perfectly homegrown snap peas — bam! A two-day snowstorm and 28 more years of winter. The skiers high-five and the summer lovers go on vacation. I’m not sure how to feel. It makes me itchy!

I scratched that itch with a trip down valley to see “The Miss Firecracker Contest” at The Merc Playhouse. It was a jam-packed day of errands that started with bloodshot eyes, so you can imagine my gratitude for a warm meal at La Fonda before the show. Alejandro and Cristina Lopez, the insanely hardworking team, are such a gift to this community. They are always open, the hours are consistent, the food is delicious. There is customer service and then there is “being of service.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local, they take care of you. What a gift! I hope we all remind them of that often.

Energized and fed, in body and spirit, I headed over to The Merc to play my part as “audience member” of a packed house. It was such fun! “The Miss Firecracker Contest” was written by Beth Henley and first went up in Los Angeles in 1980, having a short run off Broadway. Most people know of Robert Harling’s play “Steel Magnolias,” and watching “The Miss Firecracker Contest,” I couldn’t help but imagine these were the stories on the other side of the tracks. Jane Orme directs and does a great job giving us funny, colorful characters and situations that are full of heart. If you get the chance to go this weekend, don’t miss it! It is a wonderful remedy for itchy, winter doldrums.

Each cast member was an important piece of the storytelling and each actor had their moment to shine. Rebecca Thomson was wonderful as angst-ridden and attention-driven Carnelle Scott, a girl determined to shed her stained reputation and win the pageant. As Carnelle, Rebecca has a fearless and playful energy. She makes you laugh and she breaks your heart. Not to mention, this girl can rock a star-spangled bathing suit like nobody’s business!

Amy Sweet’s adorable and quirky Popeye Jackson stole the show as Carnelle’s seamstress and friend. Her polished, nerdy southerner, with a penchant for dressing frogs in suits, was spot-on in cuteness, with impeccable comedic timing. Robin Nelson Wicks played Elain Rutledge, a classy southern broad who loves Japanese wine and all the finer things. Her deliberate and slow speeches set up one-liners that she delivered with sass reminiscent of the great Shirley McClaine.

Delmount Williams was played by Andrew Tuller, a tormented man with crazy hair and a heart for exotic beauties. His disdain, love and concern for Carnelle, and the interjections as such, were heartfelt and hilarious! Chase Rost arrived in the second act as character Mac Sam, the trippy balloon man at the county fairgrounds whose love for Carnelle is as great as his number of disgusting, phlegm-rattling illnesses. Lovable and nauseatingly funny! And finally, the Methow’s own little firecracker, Emily Doran, playing the ramped-up and lust-fueled Tessy Mahoney, was a hoot and a half. Watching Emily have the time of her life with this character, you will too, as her performance sums up my feelings about the show: It’s fun, full of heart and we’d be so much less without it. Thanks for a great night, Merc!