by DICK KEREKES
FCCJ’S Wilson Center on South Campus hosted playwright and Director Ian Mairs evening of eight short plays that were presented under the title Summer Shorts. The plays were as short as three and one half minutes to twenty minutes in length with an emphasis on comedy. Most of the plays were written by Mr. Mairs, with New York playwright Jacquelyn Reingold contributing three.
The funniest of the evening, judging from the laughs from the full house, was from the pen of Pulitzer Prize playwright David Lindsey Abaire (Drama Pulitzer Prize 2007 for Rabbit Hole) in a piece entitled How We Talk in South Boston. Mr. Maris played the title role, a bigoted Irish Boston Red Sox Fan and his weird family. I had seen Maris in this several years ago, and he was once again hilarious.
A similar program of short plays was staged by local actors by Mairs 4 or 5 years ago, in the black box theatre, but this year’s was held in the conference room and was indeed minimalistic, with no props, almost no costuming other than the actor’s personal clothing and no programs. The names of the plays were written on a portable blackboard in the back of the room that we the audience were invited to check out at the intermission. This was a reading, meaning all the actors had scripts in their hands, although most of the performers referred to the written pages they held sparingly and had obviously memorized most of it.
The exception to the no costumes was Staci Cobb in 2B Cont.. She played a queen bee, wearing a set of wings and a tiara, while engaging in carnal pleasures with a human being played by Al Letson.
Another very popular skit concerned a woman’s support group talking about their problem of dealing with the craving for sweets like brownies, candy bars, etc. I saw a lot of the women in the audience really perk up their attention to this very funny eight minute skit.
It was good to see a couple of veteran actors back on stage again after long long absences. Robert Arleigh White, former Director of Theatre Jacksonville some years ago, was hilarious as the law enforcement officer on death row who could not decided whether to wake up a condemned prisoner to eat his last meal of fried chicken before it got cold. He was joined by a confused co-officer, played Forest Gump style by another long missing theatre veteran, Kevin Roberts.
It was also good to see Simone Aden Reid back in a couple of the plays. Now that Simone has retired from teaching, I hope this talented lady will become regular on the local stages once again.
This was the last local appearance for a while of Matt Mercurio, who is entering the theatre program at the University of Florida in August, after performing a variety of excellent roles with the FCCJ theatre program.
Rounding out the very talent cast in various roles, were April Danas (also co-director of the evening), Jonathan Ross, Tracy Selvig and Kasi Walters.
There were only two scheduled performances last weekend, so if you missed it, you missed a lot of fun. The admission was FREE, thanks to FCCJ and I guess sort of a parting gift to Jacksonville from Ian Mairs. He is planning a move to the Big Apple in the next few months, to give his writing talents greater exposure in that much much bigger market. I would not be surprised to see Ian’s name on the credits on some television comedies and dramas in the next couple of years.
My only suggestion in the staging of the plays would have been to have like a ring announcer come out and announce the title of each segment we were about to see. But I have to admit it was kind of fun trying to guess what the title was. Thanks cast, crew and FCCJ for brightening up one of summer’s long hot and rainy evenings.
by DICK KEREKES