by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players By the Sea opened “Talking Heads” in its studio theatre May 18th. This show will continue for three more performances on May 24, 25, 26 at 8 PM at 106 Sixth Street North, in Jacksonville Beach. Call 904-249-0289 for reservations or visit www.playersbythesea.org.
Players should perhaps have called this “Talking Heads 2,” since they staged a version in May, 2010, but this is not the same show. English playwright Alan Bennett wrote a series of comical and reflective monologues that appeared on his very popular BBC television show in the 1980s. Twelve episodes from the original series were adapted for the stage and Players produced four of them in 2010. The three in the current production are entirely different.
What you get with “Talking Heads” is actually three one act-plays that all together come out to a little over two hours with the intermission. The stage is divided into three parts, representing the home of each woman, who presents her individual story. The stories are interwoven so that all start and end at the same time. It is a unique way to keep the audience involved from scene to scene.
The set by Brian Grant and Joe Schwarz includes the British furnishings for a cozy parlor on the left, a mid-stage kitchen, and a more elaborate parish house parlor on the right, with a stained glass window. The set is augmented with a video display that expands the interiors. The costumes by Lindsey Curry had the ladies clothed in modest and somewhat dowdy attire, appropriate to their circumstances.
The opening play stars Kasi Walters as Marjory in “The Outside Dog,” which is perhaps the darkest of the “Talking Heads” we have seen so far. Ms. Walters is a young housewife, who despite being married, is very lonely. She has no outside interests, but is obsessed with keeping her house spotless, and won’t allow her husband’s Alsatian dog inside the house. Husband Stuart works in a slaughterhouse and apparently has an interest in slaughtering other things while walking with his dog late at night. This is somewhat of a crime thriller and we won’t say more because we don’t want to spoil it for you. Ms. Walters, fresh from an outstanding performance in Player’s “Bug,” keeps stretching her talents and is very good in this demanding monologue using a very accurate British accent. When the play debuted in the US, film actress Annette Benning played the role.
In “Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet,” Simone Aden-Reid is very funny as a lonely middle-aged woman whose life is changed when she goes to a new podiatrist, who has a foot fetish. Dr. Dunderdale, who of course we never see, is an elderly semi-retired doctor, who still sees a few women patients because he is unable give up a profession that has allowed him to “kneel at the feet of thousands of women.” Miss Fozzard’s life is further complicated as her brother, a stroke victim lives with her. She recently hired an Australian physical therapist for him, who apparently cured him just long enough to fleece him of his life’s savings. Simon appeared in the 2010 Talking Heads and won a Pelican Award for her performance. Lynn Redgrave played this role in its New York debut in 2003.
Caroline Lee is Susan in “A Bed Among the Lentils,” playing the bored and alcoholic wife of a church vicar. When the local liquor store cuts off her credit, she goes to a deli for her supply of wine. The Indian grocer, Ramesh Ramesh, is a colorful character, only twenty-six, with whom she winds up sleeping. This show seemed to be the crowd’s favorite, but well, sex sells. It is very funny, and Ms. Lee does a fine job of eliciting the audience’s sympathy in response to the character’s problems. Theatres that choose to do “Talking Heads” can apparently choose the episodes they want to include, and “A Bed Among the Lentils” is frequently done.
Samuel Fisher, who Co-Directed the 2010 show, is the Director and he has directed to perfection. All three of these talented ladies were line-perfect, with excellent accents and marvelous characterizations. As you watch this show, you feel as though you are actually guests in their homes, having a spot of tea while listening to their stories and observing their captivating and charming mannerisms and expressions.
There could be a “Talking Heads 3” in a couple of years, if this run is as successful as it should be; it is excellent and has Star Power. Some remaining titles that sound intriguing include: “A Woman of No Importance,” “A Chip in the Sugar,” “Soldiering On,” “Playing Sandwiches,” “Nights in the Gardens of Spain,” and “Waiting for the Telegram.”
Don’t miss “Talking Heads,” a delightful bit of British humor on stage right now in Jacksonville Beach.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM