Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Based on what is seen on stage, some good, some not in as much focus as I might wish, it is easy for me to imagine that the rehearsal hall was a place of more chaos than usual, working with a script that might have benefited from one more workshop. The piece has huge ambitions and realizes an ample portion of them in terms of stimulating audiences. The finished production is not as polished as some seen at American Stage over the past several seasons, acting in the two central roles is fuzzy where more attention from the director might have yielded incisiveness, scene changes in act one are unnecessarily busy when little is required in terms of change, and dramatic rhythm is hit and miss, lacking a unified arc. One severe problem still exists with the script is that the ending is well conceived but arrives too suddenly for the audience to fully grasp its significance.
Jewish Miriam meets Moroccan Sameer at a party and the attraction is instantaneous. However, the bigger subject is never too far in the background. He is undocumented and in an attempt to aid his sister, both get caught up in the underworld of banking laws and immigration.
Jordan Mann is Miriam. At a talk back, she showed more understanding of the character than she is able to portray on stage. Joe Joseph brilliantly portrays the middle-eastern is Sameer, through more attention to the character's physicality would add focus. Angela Bond as Miriam's mother Selma, Chris Jackson as Tripp and Male Agent, and Mari Vial Golden as female agent and Sameer's sister Amina, along with acting apprentices Kody Hopkins and Tarilabo Koripamo, do fine supporting work.
Jim Sorenson, always a fine, steady hand, and my guess is that much of his attention for this production was given over to getting the script into better focus, leaving him less able to concentrate on other matters. Also, much of the scenic design by Steven Jones is partially recycled from the last main stage production, Marjorie Prime, which is distracting. Costuming by Katrina Stevenson is a bit unappealing, especially for Miriam.
Strait of Gibraltar is a fascinating play, part mystery, part political, and entirely engrossing. I am always ready to allow for imperfection in live theater when there compensation possible, as there is in the subject matter at hand. Thanks to all for bringing this provocative piece to St. Petersburg.
Strait of Gibraltar, through June 17, 2018, at American Stage Theatre Company, 163 Third Street North, St. Petersburg FL. For more information, visit www.americanstage.org.