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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Mezzulah, 1946

Mezzulah
Theo Allyn and Deborah Hazlett
The Florida Stage presents the Southeastern premiere of Michele Lowe's play, Mezzulah, 1946.  On the surface, the play is a tribute to the increasing recognition of American woman in the post-World War II work force.  But underneath, it is a tale of emancipation from societal expectations amidst a time of great change.

Mezzulah, 1946 is the story of a 19-year-old woman named Mezzulah who, like many women of her time, answered the call when asked to go to work in America's many plants and factories during WWII.  When the war ended,  the women were thanked for their service to their country, and asked to return home.  The men returning from battle would now resume their place in the work force, and take over these jobs.  Unlike the women around her, Mezzulah has no intention of quitting her job at a Boeing airplane factory.  She has dreamed of flight since she was a child.  Her attic houses her designs and models of airplanes yet to be built.  Like her hero, Leonardo da Vinci, she is ahead of her time.  Her job at Boeing has fired her imagination even further.  She will not be denied finding her place in the world, by making her dreams come true and her visions become a reality.

Mezzulah lives with her mother, who was widowed the day after she married Mezzulah's father.  Mezzulah is able to speak with and see her father whose grave she visits often.  He serves as a tie to the past that in the end must be slightly severed in order to grow. Theo Allyn is wonderful as the tomboyish Mezzulah. Deborah Hazlett is warm as her mother, Mary Steiner, rediscovering herself in the arms of the handsome James Denvil as Isaiah Benson.  As Mary has been dubbed "the virgin" by the town, it would seem this is the first relationship she has allowed herself since the loss of her husband.  James Denvil plays the plight of the returned vet well, as so many came back to find no jobs and their lives quite changed. 

Mary's sister Suzannah is a woman in search of being understood and accepted by herself and those around her—namely her husband Errol.  Blair Sams as Suzannah and Kevin Cutts as Errol establish a nice relationship on stage as husband and wife, and their parts are well written.  Some of the other subplots do not serve the piece as a whole, however.  A woman named Clementine wandering the country searching for her dead husband's body is a random addition, as is her sudden ability to be the only person besides Mezzulah to speak with and see Mezzulah's long dead father.  Despite the bad writing of a part which does nothing to further the story, Beth Witting as Clementine and also a very pregnant Sally Cauley is a strong comedic presence on stage and quite entertaining to watch.

The changing role of women in the work force, and the discovery of self is admirable fuel for this piece.  The story of Mezzulah, 1946 is enjoyable,  and leaves us wondering what becomes of this feisty young woman named Mezzulah.  The play as a whole however is a bit lacking in polish and passion.

Playwright Michele Lowe is also the author of The Smell of the Kill which debuted on Broadway in 2002.  Her play String of Pearls received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination. In addition to Mezzulah, 1946, which premiered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her other plays include Backsliding in the Promised Land, Map of Heaven, Good on Paper and Hit The Lights.

Mezzulah, 1946 will be appearing at Florida Stage through January 18, 2009.   The theater is located in Plaza del Mar, at 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. Florida Stage is a professional theater, with extensive programs for young artists, hiring Equity and non-Equity performers from across the United States. Florida Stage is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, the Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National New Play Network.

Performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 pm; and Sundays at 7:00 pm. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3833, or contacting them online at www.floridastage.org.

Cast:
Mezzulah Steiner: Theo Allyn*
Horace Steiner/Man #1: Scott Borish*
Errol Steiner/Man #3: Kevin Cutts*
Issiah Benson: James Denvil*
Charlie Steiner/Reverend: Anthony Giaimo*
Mary Steiner: Deborah Hazlett*
Fist/Man #2: David Michael Holmes*
Suzannah Hart: Blair Sams*
Elvira Glass/Mrs. Bates: Erin Joy Schmidt*
Clementine Flynn/Sally Cauley: Beth Wittig*

Crew:
Director: Louis Tyrell**
Scenic & Lighting Design: Richard Crowell
Sound Design: Matt Kelly
Costume Design: Erin Amico
Production Stage Manager: Suzanne Clement Jones*

* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

** Designates member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.


Photo: SigVision


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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