Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Florida Studio Theater

Also see Bill's reviews of The Matchmaker and Fearless

Omar Edwards, Shane Taylor, Terrell Wheeler, Jordan Bellow, and Robert Karma
What a fall/winter season FST is having with its Mainstage series. First a lively production of Hairspray, next Dancing Lessons, extended until March 8, and now Fly by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military pilots in WWII. When the play was first produced at Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Anita Gates for the New York Times said "Let's get right to the point. 'Fly' blew me away." I agree! Upon entering the theater and seeing the set design—five flat pieces hung so as to outline the inside of a fighter plane—I knew this was going to be unusual theater. As has been the custom throughout most of the play's history, this production is directed by one of the authors, Ricardo Khan. There is nothing wrong with this, great theater is great theater.

The story of many thousands of black men trained as pilots and support personnel in racially segregated Alabama is told using four individuals to represent them all. Three white actors, two in multiple roles and a character called Tap Griot who is used to convey emotions that are beyond mere acting, complete the cast. All of the actors in the FST production are new to the piece except Omar Edwards as Tap Griot, who seems completely irreplaceable. His dancing is outstanding but he is completely in service to the dramatic arc; he has been part of a number of previous productions. Jordan Bellow (Chet), Robert Karma Robinson (W.W), Shane Taylor (J. Allen) and Terrell Wheller (Oscar) are the four soldiers preparing to begin flight training. Each is from a different place and are unique individuals. Because of their great differences as people their bonding is haphazard. Early on, a testosterone-fueled fight breaks out between W.W. and Oscar over a leadership role. All four actors are excellent. Greg Brostrom portrays flight instructor O'Hurley, and Sean Patrick Hopkins and Michael Pauley each play several characters.

Director Kahn weaves together all the varied elements to create an afternoon or evening that is more than just a play—it is vividly theatrical. Bravo to FST for bringing Fly to Sarasota.

Florida Studio Theatre presents Fly through April 8, 2015, 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

Chet: Jordan Bellow*
O'Hurley: Greg Brostrom*
Tap Griot: Omar Edwards*
Reynolds/Snopes/Instructor: Sean Patrick Hopkins*
Shaw/Staff Sargeant/Barman/Fight Captain: Michael Pauley*
W.W.: Robert Karma Robinson*
J. Allen: Shane Taylor*
Oscar: Terrell Wheeler*
* Member of Actor's Equity Association.

Director: Ricardo Kahn
Choreographer: Hope Clarke
Fight Choreographer: Dan Granke
Scenic Designer: Beowulf Boritt
Original Costume Design: Tony-Leslie James
Costume Designer: J. Theresa Bush
Projection Designer: Rocco DiSanti
Projection Assistant: Devorah Kengmana
Lighting Designer: Xavier Pierce
Composer/Sound Designer: John Gromada
Improvography: Omar Edwards
Production Stage Manager: Kelli Karen*

Photo: Matthew Holler

--William S. Oser