by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players by the Sea and Mix Tape Productions presented the World Premier of The Creationists written and directed by Joshua Kreis McTiernan. Three more performances are scheduled on February 24, 25, and 26 at the Players Theatre in Jacksonville Beach. Performances are in the Studio Theatre which has limited seating so you’ll need reservations. Call 249-0289 or visit www.playersbythesea.org for information.
For many attending the first performances of The Creationists it was an entirely new theatre experience, as it may be for readers planning to attend one of the three remaining performances. Why? This play falls into the category of absurdist comedy. The Theater of the Absurd was a Mid-20th Century theater movement that began as a rejection of realism. These types of plays ignore conventions like unity of time and action, and often use simplified characters. Playwrights who wrote in this style included Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Eugene Ionesco; John Guare is still writing.
The play, and more importantly the story, opens at a train station in Malbork, Russia. Two KGB agents, Tyler (Tyler Christian Ramirez) and his partner Kai (played in drag by Philip Harville) are interrogating Cameron (Cameron Lee Henderson) about his nationality and his reason for visiting Russia. The Narrator (Brian Fullford) is also acting as the director of the story, and keeps butting in when the actors go off on tangents from the main story. However, The Narrator doesn’t seem to know what the story is supposed to be about, or how to address inconsistencies, and abruptly departs from the set and the story. While the three actors are waiting for his return, a crew dressed in jump suits suddenly arrives. The crew members are Erasers, whose job is to erase the story and the characters, which brought to mind television shows that are suddenly cancelled, or plays that close the day after their New York opening. They are played by Bradley Akers (Head Eraser), Tori Richmond-Davies (Eraser # 2), and J’royce Denard Walton (Eraser # 3).
The terrified characters plead with the Erasers for time, and the Head Eraser finally agrees to return later in the day. He suggests that they try to find another narrator, or another story they can be a part of, although he doesn’t offer much hope that they will be successful.
As Act II opens, our three characters find themselves in the classic tale of “Pride and Prejudice.” The three Erasers are now Mr. Bennett (Akers) Lizzie Bennett (Richmond-Davies) and Mrs. Bennett (Walton, in drag, and hilarious to boot!!) We will let you discover for yourselves what happens here when you see the play. Anyway this does not work out, so they move on to another story, based on the novel “Lord of the Flies,” the story of shipwrecked children who turn into savages. And this is as far as Dual Critics will take you, leaving the ending as a surprise.
With the exception of Mr. Fullford and Mr. Henderson, all the actors are Douglas Anderson students, and Playwright McTiernan graduated from there. For Brian Fullford, this play is a theatre comeback of sorts. His only previous performance was Charlie Brown in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” as a youth. Since then he has received a degree in Philosophy and Religion, works as a systems engineer for a bank, and writes for Jacksonville Jaguar team sites. Welcome back to show business, you did well.
Cameron Lee Henderson’s name may be familiar to you, especially if you are a regular at the Alhambra. He has done three musicals there, Annie, Footloose, and High School Musical. He also worked at Disney World Resort as a performer and a puppeteer prior to returning to Jacksonville. Mr. Henderson was excellent, as were all the actors in the production’s demanding roles.
Joshua and his brother Jeremy conceived the idea for this play and his brother was also was a script supervisor for the production. This show has a lot of humor, does not contain any objectionable language, and is a very interesting evening of theatre.
The set designed by the Director and Brianna Dykes is simple, with black box walls and flooring, and large wheeled trunks that serve as major furnishings. The costumes by Designer J’royce Walton are also simple but anchor the characters in time and place and include trench coats, long gowns from the Regency period, and heavy work clothes.
One of the missions of Players by the Sea is to encourage new work from local playwrights, and they have certainly succeeded with this production of The Creationists The Dual Critics had seen a workshop version of this play at Douglas Anderson last year. We thought it was interesting at the time, but did not review it since it was a work in progress. We are pleased to say the play and performances were very polished and ready for Off-Off Broadway. Thanks Joshua, we enjoyed it. Since First Coast Theatre in Riverside closed several years ago, we haven’t seen many avant-garde plays in Jacksonville. Don’t miss this one.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM