Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
September's offering, The Other Side, has as its central theme death, an unlikely topic for comedy, but the evening turned out to be one of the funniest and best efforts by this still young company.
First up was Happily Departed by Helen Valenta, directed by Helen Holliday. Marek (Grandpa), played by David Harris with great crustiness and heart, has taken ill while away from his beloved Florida Condominium. Surrounded by daughter-in-law Betty, played by Danae DeShazer, and son Ben, played by Tom Foley, Marek fights to regain some control of his life. Timothy Nobel as grandson Jason showed a special bond with his grandfather. Underneath the comedy is a look at what it might be like to lose control of one's own life.
Next came The Day That Brando Died by Lawrence DuKore, directed by Jeff Dillon. Two older men, Peter Walsh, played by Valen McDaniel, and Ernie Zuckerman, played by David Meyersburg, meet for their regular tennis game on the day Marlon Brando has died. This triggers a flood of memories, first of the great actor, then back to their youth when they both interacted with the same beautiful girl. The plot is driven by coincidence after coincidence. The swiftness of the whole endeavor and the charming performances by both actors made for 15 minutes of fun.
After intermission came The Virgin Abduction by Ron Frankel. Five minutes into this piece and I could tell that it was under the direction of Ross Boehringerit had all the zaniness and swift farce of his best acting work. Glen, played by Ren Pearson, in an effort to raise some much needed money kidnaps Barry, played by Jean-Paul Monde. Barry is gay and, thinking it merely a sexual game, doesn't resist much. Mr. Monde was perfect, gay to a fault but never going too far. Glen's fiancee Elaine, played by Lauren Ward, doesn't find it amusing, she just wanted him to rob a house or something. Grace Vitale plays a maid who merely wants to turn down the beds and get the heck out of there, adding additional merriment. Mr. Pearson just seems to grow better and better, and one could see the steam coming out of his ears as things went awry. Good acting across the board always equals great direction, so bravo to Mr. Boehringer.
Last was Next by Scott Mullen, directed by David Nields. We are in the anti-room of heaven, tended by Clerk, played by Lynne Doyle. She wears too many years working in a bank, the irritation with everything around her fairly drips off of her. I kept thinking Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly after 10 or more years working in the office environment. Ren Pearson as Matt, a 26 year old who died too soon, goes through the interview process and ends up as a guardian angel. Mr. Pearson is a still very young man, and he looked so adorable in his angel snuggie with wings. Next up is Penny, played by Danae DeShazer, who has fallen off a roof. The interplay between the burned out Clerk and the still youthful Matt and Penny make this a strong short play. Ms. DeShazer has been away from this area for a few years, and I want to say it's great to have her back. Some might not know that she has a fine voice and is often seen to wonderful effect in musicals. I have only seen Ms. Doyle in two Tennessee Williams productions, although she lists several other recent productions on her resume. I will definitely want to see more of her; she is an excellent actress.
Personal kudos to Jo Morello who will receive a much deserved mention in a forthcoming biography of Eugene O'Neill by Arthur and Barbara Gelb. This lady is a tireless presence in the Sarasota Theater Community, enriching where ere she walks.
Starlite Players just keep getting better and better. I keep seeing actors that I have heard about but not seen, or only seen in nondescript ensemble performances and get to experience talents I had no idea they possessed. Feel free to just fill in some of the fine adjectives I have used before about this company, they continue to earn them. Tickets are a bargain at $17.50, treat yourself to a fun night soon.
Upcoming productions will be Love. Actually running October 20-23, 2016, and an early Thanksgiving treat, Thank youI Think November 10-13, 2016.
The Other Side played through September 25, 2016, presented by The Starlite Players at The Starlite Room, 1001 Cocoanut Avenue, Sarasota, FL. www.starliteplayers.com.