Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Doublewide
Florida Studio Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule


Gisela Chípe and Todd Licea
Photo by Matthew Hollar
The Summer Mainstage Series at Florida Studio Theatre comes to an end with Stephen Spotswood's Doublewide, under the auspices of the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere Program. The program "provides playwright and production support for new works at its member theaters," according to program notes. Other theatre companies that are presenting Doublewide's inaugural productions are Florida Repertory Theatre, Vermont Stage, and Williamston Theatre in Michigan. After each production, the playwright tweaks the play as audiences and new casts unearth new things.

Doublewide is an interesting play, which I enjoyed a lot. It looks in on the Starkey family: Big Jim, wife Sharon, mother Coral, and daughter Lorelai. Jim has a steady job, and Sharon is bent over from too many hours working a register at Walmart where she is supposed to be a manager. Coral is retired and spends too much time at the casino nearby, while Lorelai is drifting aimlessly in high school, headed for a GED down the road. They are working class, a family that loves each another.

Spotswood has created emotionally real characters, representing the heart and soul of America and, honestly, I would rather spend two hours with this group of decent hardscrabble people than three with Martha and George in Edward Albee's magnum opus Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as they tear each other and another couple apart. Unfortunately, the author does not provide a strong narrative thrust. The dramatic incident that closes act one and should propel act two lacks the force it might have, and needs to be rethought. Even fixing this minor flaw, we are left watching decent people struggle through a period of their lives a period more or less like the ones that came before and will come after. I don't object to just reminding an audience how hard the struggle is, day to day, but I fear that without a stronger dramatic arc, many theatre companies will pass this play by.

Florida Studio Theatre fields a very strong cast. Todd Licea as Big Jim is the strong center of his family, loving and paternal. Gisela Chípe is Sharon, his loving wife, trying to support him in every way, but sometimes coming up just a tiny bit short. Kim Crow is Coral, bored with her life in retirement, wanting to help her son however she can. Alexa Fajardo Eldridge is Lorelai, a normal teenage for whom everything is a major dramatic happening. Nick Piacente is Chuck, who comes to tutor Lorelei and gets caught up in her confidence, something he doesn't have. Directed by Jason Canon, these actors all demonstrate the warmth and caring a loving family exudes.

Costumes are by Jeff Cone and are effective establishing time, place, and social class. Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay provide a spectacular set, although not completely accurate in terms of the layout of mobile homes. This was probably done to accommodate the dramatic demands of the play. Lighting designer Mike Wood does fine work focusing the action.

I am happy Florida Studio Theatre is ready to take a risk on new work. I find Doublewide an emotionally rewarding play, but it could use a stronger plot.

Florida Studio Theatre presents Doublewide through August 20, 2017, at the Gompertz Theater 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.

Cast:
Sharon: Gisela Chípe*
Coral: Kim Crow*
Lorelai: Alexa Fajardo Eldridge
Big Jim: Todd Licea*
Chuck: Nick Piacente*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association


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