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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Yankee Tavern

Also see John's review of Madama Butterfly

Yankee Tavern
Antonio Amadeo and
William McNulty

Florida Stage presents the world premiere production of Yankee Tavern by Steven Dietz. Playwright Steven Dietz is the recipient of the PEN U.S.A. Award in Drama for Lonely Planet, the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award for Fiction and Still Life With Iris, the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Award for The Rememberer, the Yomiuri Shimbun Award for his adaptation of Shusaku Endo's Silence and the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery for his adaptation of William Gillette's and Arthur Conan Doyle's 1899 play Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. He is the author of more than twenty plays, including Last of the Boys, God's Country, Halcyon Days, Becky's New Car, More Fun than Bowling, Trust, Private Eyes and Fiction.

Yankee Tavern is set in a careworn New York tavern run by Adam and his fiancée Janet. Adam is an international studies Masters Degree student who inherited the tavern and the condemned hotel above it when his father committed suicide. A long-time friend of Adam's father named Ray is a fixture at the bar, and a sometime resident of the hotel. Ray spouts countless elaborate conspiracy theories on subject matters ranging from The Bay of Pigs to Starbucks coffee, and tells tales of nightly conversations with ghosts who live in the hotel. His latest focal point of conspiracy conjectures concerns the events surrounding 9/11, and he enjoys nothing more than a good debate on his conjectures.

A quiet stranger named Palmer happens upon the bar, as Adam is about to embark on a trip to Washington DC with his professor. Even the most bizarre conspiracy theory is based on a fragment of truth. It is therefore inevitable that one of these theories would contain more truth than anyone may have expected, and becomes entangled in the lives of those who have examined it too closely.

This Florida Stage production features a realistic looking, slightly run-down neighborhood bar. The costumes look grabbed from nearly anyone's closet, and care has been taken to portray the characters as unglamorously middle-class. The story of Yankee Tavern would be more viable if condensed into a one-act play, or perhaps spun out into a suspense film filled with flashbacks and chase scenes.

We spend the first act listening to seemingly endless conspiracy theory rants as the relationships between the characters are sketchily drawn. It's not until nearly 1/3 of the way through the second act that the playwright makes a point. William McNulty as Ray, who is the font of the many rants, relieves some of the potentially tedious moments of the show with his humorous acting talents. He is a welcome and colorful character. Mark Zeisler as Palmer lends mystery to the story and seems just possibly threatening enough to add suspense. He visibly stumbles with his lines more than once, however, even though he has fewer lines than anyone else in the cast.

Though there are only four characters, it is sad to say that we still know them very little at the end of the play. Antonio Amadeo and Kim Morgan Dean are fine as Adam and Janet. However, we have little invested in the relationship between Adam and Janet, and the couple create no palpable feeling of emotional intimacy. Janet's character in particular remains enormously unexplored. There is the feeling of an unfinished play about this production that makes it pleasant but largely forgettable theatrical fare.

Yankee Tavern will be appearing at the Florida Stage through June 21, 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. They are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Development Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. The Florida Stage remains the only professional theatre in Southeast Florida producing exclusively new and emerging works.

Performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday after noons 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:
Adam: Antonio Amadeo*
Janet: Kim Morgan Dean*
Ray: William McNulty*
Palmer: Mark Zeisler*

Crew:
Director: Michael Bigelow Dixon**
Scenic Design: Richard Crowell
Lighting Design: Michael Jon Burris
Sound Design: Matt Kelly
Costume Design: Leslye Menshouse
Production Stage Manager: James Dansford*

* 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.  


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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