by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The 5 & Dime Theatre Company opened the North Florida premier of Zach Braff’s adult comedy “All New People.” We emphasize ‘ adult’ as much of the humor in this play is similar to what you might hear at an adult comedy club. It includes a lot of sexual suggestion, and the full house audiences the first two nights loved it and roared with laughter.
This is a wild and whimsical comedy about a death wish. Charlie, the central character, is depressed and planning to end his life because of an incident in his life. We won’t reveal his method of choice; we’ll let that be a surprise for when you go. But on this winter day in a posh beach house on the barrier island of Long Beach, New Jersey, something, call it fate or God or whatever, intercedes.
In walks Emma, a British rental agent, who talks him out of his planned demise, at least for the moment. She has her own major problems, since she is in this country illegally, with no passport or Green Card. The handsome young Myron, fire chief of this small island, soon joins them. Besides fighting fires, Myron uses drugs, moonlights as a drug dealer, and loves Emma.
Charlie is just borrowing the use of this house from a wealthy friend, who, concerned that his friend might be lonely, sends an expensive gift over for the evening. The doorbell rings and there stands Kim, a $15,000 a night prostitute.( She does not like the word prostitute and so refers to herself as an escort, but an uninhibited one who is open to almost anything kinky).
Well, there you have it, a fine kettle of fish, or friends, stewed with lots of very funny sex talk, drinking, drugs, and smoking. The set, filled with interesting vintage pieces, is gorgeous, and the women’s somewhat eccentric clothing adds visual punch. As the evening progresses, we learn about the backstory of each of the three guests via short videos with the stage action stopped and lights out, and Charlie also finally relates why he wants to kill himself. The multimedia cast members for the inserts include Trey Lewek, Laura Peden, and Joe Walz.
Now you may have noticed we have skillfully avoided mentioning who plays who in this play and there is a reason for that; the four actors in the cast interchange roles on alternating nights. That’s right, DANIEL AUSTIN and CARL VORKERK alternate as Charlie and Myron, while AMANDA MORALES and KAT MCLEOD are on stage as either Emma or Kim.
So, double your pleasure, double your fun, go to see this play two times instead of just one. The Dual Critics did, on February 22 and 23. This excellent cast performed excellently on both nights. Were the plays different? Well, the script was exactly the same, but the reaction of the audience was different. While some of the laugh points were the same, each audience found different phrases funny. As any actor can tell you, there can be a different audience reaction every night.
Daniel Austin is a University of Florida graduate in theatre and had been living and learning in New York prior to returning to Jacksonville. He was in “The Rocky Horror Show” at the Edge and more recently in “Forbidden Broadway” at Theatre Jacksonville
Amanda Morales has come a long way in local theatre after starting as a Whataburger girl in “Dividing the Estate” at Players. Leading roles, musicals she does it all and does it well. She is one of the most in-demand actresses on our local stages and we know you will be seeing more of her in the future.
Carl Vorwerk is a graduate of Douglas Anderson who moved to England to continue his studies; this is his debut with The 5 & Dime. He has an impressive resume filled with roles he performed in England and is a terrific addition to our theatre community.
While Kat McLeod has made a name for herself as a very efficient stage manager in local theatre productions, this is her first role on stage in this city. She is an FSU theatre graduate, with roles on stage in that area. We are sure she will be on the local boards again in the future.
Ron Shreve is making his directorial debut in Jacksonville, after having been the assistant director of “Rocky Horror” at the Edge, and “Forbidden Broadway” at Theatre Jacksonville. A University of Florida graduate, he is returning to Florida after two years in New York. Mr. Shreve obviously knows how to chose a cast and in this case has chosen a very intelligent one, as having to learn two major parts in the same play is a tremendous challenge that Mr. Shreve and his talented foursome handled with aplomb.
We won’t reveal the ending. We enjoyed both performances but feel the playwright could have done without the video for the background information, and instead had the individual characters reveal their failings and backstory, perhaps using monologues directed to the audience. Mr.Bratt certainly had the time for this, since the play is really a long one act and only runs 76 minutes.
The 5 & Dime has been tremendously successful because a group of passionate theatre artists work so well together. The success of this production was ably assisted by Brandon Mayes (Assistant Director), Juliet Fixel (Stage Manager), Abigail Saenz (Multimedia Videographer), Lee Hamby (Production Manager and Designer) and Carl Vorwerk (Lighting Designer).
It pays to own a GPS if you are a fan of The 5 & Dime since they have done all their plays at different locations, all in the core city. The current production is at The Pangea Live, a performance space at 956 North Liberty Street, 2 blocks off Union Street. You will be pleased at this marvelous setting, which is available for rental for theatrical and musical performances, and other events. The venue is spacious and spotless, with a proscenium stage, flexible seating, and a great sound system and lights (call 904-699-7006 for rental info). The owners Ken and Aryaa Garretson are very gracious and had a terrific snack bar available for patrons. There is plenty of free parking around the building and on adjacent streets which is non-commercial in the evening. You can make all the noise you want, since there are no residential dwellings anywhere close.
Remaining performances are on March 1, 2 and 3. Don’t miss this show and this fine cast. Check it out at www.The5andDime.org. And the price is certainly right, $10.00 in advance, $15.00 at the door.