Dramaworks of the south campus of Florida State College of Jacksonville presented the zany comedy “The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild”, under the direction of Ken McCulough at the Nathan H. Wilson Center black box theatre from April 11 to April 14.
This play was from the pen of the late Paul Zindel, who is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning play “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”, which was made into a film directed by Paul Newman, with Joanne Woodard.
“Mildred Wild” debuted in 1972 on Broadway, and played for 23 performances; perhaps the plot and characters were not sophisticated enough for tough New York audiences. However, the work has endured through many successful productions on college and community theater stages.
Why? It has a number of roles of varying length, and a script that is allows the actors to really stretch themselves in a comedy where all the characters are somewhat ditzy and eccentric. For technical students, it offers challenges in set building, backstage work, video and sound.
In watching this play, it paid to remember that the playwright was also the author of a number of young adult books, with titles that included “My Darling, My Hamburger”, “Confessions of a Teenage Baboon”, and “The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas”.
The action takes place in the upstairs New York City apartment of Roy and Mildred Wild. Roy runs a candy store downstairs, where his wife Mildred occasionally assists. Mostly Mildred spends her time watching movies, going to movies, or reading magazines about movies. Husband Roy is a diabetic with an eating problem and the family has money problems. Helen Wild (LINDSEY NEWBERN) is Roy’s pushy sister who reluctantly helps with the rent. The landlord Bertha Gale (TARA COFFIN) is an attractive wild and crazy lady who has the hots for her tenant Roy.
Local butcher shop owner Caroll Chatham (JORDAN WRIGHT) is also a movie fan and frequently goes to the local movie theatre with Mildred. Mr. Wright doubles back in several cameo roles that are hilarious. He is the maid in a “Gone With the Wind” segment, a female flapper, an African jungle warrior, and a gay television show producer (we may have missed one, they came on fast and furious).
Mildred’s obsession extends to TV contest shows about movies and she sends in 120 postcards to “Hollywood Magazine”, a show delightfully hosted by Warren (AUSHAUD T. GANTT) and Evelyn (WANEKA MESHUN LEARY). Mildred’s answers win her some appliances and a trip to Hollywood for a screen test. When delivered by Miss Manley (JOVIE LINDAWAN) and Rex Bulby (RICHARD ROSADO), the prizes appear bogus and of little value.
Complicating matters, the building where Mildred and Roy live is scheduled for demolition. Roy’s sister has helpfully arranged for the couple to move to a nearby convent, where they will work as the on-site managers. The arrival of Sister Cecilia (BRENDA LEE MIKUS) and Sister Mary Joseph (ELISE MONEY) to complete the arrangements is not welcomed by Mildred. The final two characters are construction workers who come to start tearing the place down, played by LEIGHSHA JOHNSON and CHRISTOPHER VALADE). Mr. Valade also has a cameo role as the Invisible Man in a move fantasy sequence.
The leading roles of Mildred and Roy were played by SUNSHINE TOWNSEND and DEVIN LLOYD POLLARD. Ms. Townsend, whom we had seen previously in FSCJ’s “Revenge of the Space Pandas,” was excellent as a movie fan fanatic who uses fantasy to escape the problems she encounters at every turn. And Mr. Pollard certainly went above the call of duty in this role; the part called for a bald actor, and Pollard shaved the center of his head to accommodate a toupee. The chemistry between this unusual couple was excellent, and they were line perfect.
The costumes, by Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles, owners of The Costume Crew, were excellent, especially the creative costumes needed for the various movie fantasies played out on stage.
Actual footage of movies was projected onto the set by Projection Operator Jeff Mitchell working with Sound Designer Ian McCook, which provided a unique experience for the audience. The scenic design conceived by Johnny Pettegrew was constructed by Drama Practicum and Tech Lab Students.
Rachel Wise was the Stage Manager. This show had many properties that came on and off and credit goes to Property Supervisors Katie Berry and Amanda Harvey for keeping things moving smoothly.
Dramaworks at the FSCJ south campus, under the leadership of Professor of Theatre Ken McCulough since1994,has introduced a number of excellent plays to Jacksonville audiences over the years. Among our favorites are “Blood Brothers”, “The Women of Lockerbie”, “Is He Dead”, “Popcorn”, “Good”, and “On the Razzle”. “The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild” continued the tradition and was a lot fun not only for the actors and technicians but for the audience members as well.