by DICK KEREKES
Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre opened a two weekend run of Fernandina Beach resident Richard Wolf’s play entitled Rear End. An unusual title for a play that is for sure, but simply explained by the fact it is a spoof of the l954 Jimmy Stewart/Grace Kelly movie Rear Window. In the movie, a photographer is disabled and sees a murder being committed in a window across the courtyard. In this play, a retired geologist who is disabled spends his spare time with binoculars watching the tenant’s windows across his courtyard. The title no doubt refers to the anatomy of a lovely lady who becomes the victim of a crime while being observed by our resident voyeur Caffee McBrian.
This play is part of what is called ABET Two. This theatre group is offering two plays, not part of their subscription season, which will allow them to get back to their roots established seventeen years ago namely experimental theatre. In a pre-curtain speech, it was explained that this is the first staging of this play and it is still being revised to a certain extent and it is still in a workshop stage. Indeed it is or was opening night, as one of the actors in the cast, apparently new to the play was carrying and using a script the entire show.
Rear End is directed by Caryl Butterley, a Jacksonville native who has come home after spending twenty years in New York, as an actress, director, and involved in all aspects of theatrical productions. She teaches acting classes at Theatre Jacksonville and two of her students are making their debuts in this production.
Maggie Martin is Darla, the geologist’s rich daughter who comes over to check on his health when the hired health care worker finishes her day.Ms. Martin got a part as an extra in the film The Year of Getting to Know Us, and the theatre bug bit and she started classes. She is an attractive lady and very believable in this role.
Margaret-Ann Holmes Hennessy is Sophie, the delightful busy body next door neighbor who looks in on our disabled friend, bringing food and lots of delightful chatter to lift his spirits. Ms. Hennessey brings a wealth of experience to the stage, having been a theatre director, professional costumer and she still does drama workshops for children in this area.
Scott Peeler plays the bad guy and I won’t say much about his role or I’ll spoil the story for you. His previous stage appearance was in elementary school in a Christmas play so he has spent a few years thinking about getting back to acting. His role is small but he is quite good and convincing and I am sure he will be back in the near future since I think the acting bug has bit him as well.
Making her United State debut as an actress is Okwuoma Blandin. She performed for ten years in her native in Trinidad and Tobago and is a wonderful new talent in the Jacksonville area. I spent two years living in the Caribbean and her charming accent was like music to my ears. She plays Azure, a visiting nurse and the exchanges between her and our leading man provided much of the humor in this play. You are gonna love this gal, believe me.
Terry Dean McCraney is Caffee McBrian, the man with the binoculars, and enough physical ailments to start a hospital. What he really would like, is a bottle of scotch and to get rid of his nurse who keeps checking his blood pressure and sticking him with needles. His peeping tom pastime gets him into trouble and creates most of the suspense in this play. McCartney is physically perfect for the role. The program does not give his age, but he helped start a theatre in Indiana in l977 and he too has done it all, acting and directing. In recent years he has contributed his talents to building sets at ABET and Players.
Playwright Richard Wolf retired to Fernandina Beach and previous lived in New York for over 30 years, writing a number of plays and musicals produced all over the country. In addition Wolf wrote several successful novels, and worked as an accomplished pianist in hotels, restaurants and theaters all over NYC. He has a good sense of humor and I am looking forward to future scripts from this very talented playwright.
Director Butterley designed the Greenwich Village apartment den, and it was quite cozy on this small stage. The 3 large wooden frames (about 3 x 5 feet) on the rear wall were distracting since the only thing they framed was a blank black wall. Were those supposed to be windows? How come they did not change when it went from night to day in the apartment? The cast needs to sharpen up their telephone techniques. I was taught years ago, that when you dial a phone on stage, either rotary or push button you must always dial seven numbers, because the audience will be counting them. Actors were punching in two or three numbers and the party they called answered remarkably fast!! (The New York police department has never responded THAT fast.)
This play has a lot of potential, but needs to be beefed up a bit. The entire show with the intermission only ran about 90 minutes. Why not add another character, like a cop who could make it even more interesting.
I liked the preshow music and intermission music that kind of set the mood. You can catch this show on October 24 or 25 at the Adele Garage Cultural Center, 716 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach Florida with curtain time at 8PM. Tickets are specially priced at $10.00 so you can take the kids too. Call 249 7177.
by DICK KEREKES