by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened the comedy/farce ‘TIL BETH DO US PART” on the Matuza Main Stage at 11 Old Mission Street. “Beth” will be on stage until May 12, 2013. Call (904) 825-1164 for reservations or visit limelight-theatre.org. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 2 pm.
“‘Til Beth Do Us Part” is a unique play. It probably has more one-line jokes than any comedy since Neil Simon, the champion of one-liners, last wrote a play. But that is just as you would expect when you have not one, not two, but three playwrights pooling their talents to create a comedy. Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten have been successfully writing plays together for a number of years. The JamesHopeWooten comedies have been produced throughout the world; Limelight Theatre previously staged their “Dearly Departed” and “Dixie Swim Club”.
The play is set in the lovely home of Suzannah and Gibby Hayden in Cincinnati, Ohio. Why Cinncinnati? One guess is that it makes it easier for the playwrights and the audience to focus on the characters and their relationships than a more familiar setting, such as a small Southern town or New York City.
Jacksonville Beach Florida resident TRACEY GALLAGHER is the hard working Suzannah, who has been married for almost thirty years and works from her home as an agent for the London-based Carmichael’s Chocolates. Ms. Gallagher has been active as an actress and director in the Jacksonville area for over 20 years . She enjoys performing at Limelight and was last seen as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” on this stage. Her husband Gibby (FRANK RICCADO) is a TV weatherman who will remind you of Oscar from the “Odd Couple”. He is a self-centered slob who likes to sit around in his underwear. When asked to help clean up after himself, he uses a leaf blower to push all the papers scattered about into the next room.
Suzannah is stressed and overworked with her job, the housework, and the lack of attention and support from her husband. She hires an assistant recommended by her best friend, Margo (LINDA MIGNON) who is attractive, divorced and man hungry. Enter Beth Bailey (CHELSYE GINN), a perky and very intelligent 30ish lovely who speaks with a sort of Southern accent. When Beth occasionally discusses her background, it sounds like the resume of the backwoods Elly May from the Beverly Hillbillies. But wait!! Beth is a wiz who does everything: cleaning, paper work, even plumbing repairs! However, Beth and husband Gibby don’t get along, and he suspects she may have ulterior motives.
Meanwhile in a subplot, Margo and her ex-husband Hank (THOMAS MUNIZ) battle each other despite being divorced. Hank wants his vintage Mustang back and Margo is mailing it back to him part by part. Margo and Hank are both interested in dating, but apparently are looking in all the wrong places. And they are still attracted to each other, even if unwilling to admit it.
Another plot twist involves Celia Carmichael (VANESSA WARNER) who is traveling from London for a dinner with Suzannah, and will likely be offering her a big promotion to a position based in London. Ms. Warner was recently on stage at Theatre Jacksonville in a very dramatic in “The Triangle Factory Fire Project.” As Celia, she has a very comic role.
The final scene in the show turns up the farce factor, with all five of the doors on the set being rapidly opened and closed and people dashing going in and out. We’ll leave the details for you to discover when you see the play.
The set designed by Tom Fallon is gorgeous, with dove grey walls brightened with touches of color. In his program biography, Tom graciously credits his Limelight volunteer creative team for their fine work and assistance. The ladies in “Beth” put on quite a fashion show thanks to Costumer Lorraine Rokovitz.
A popular Limelight performer in many shows, Patric Robinson is making his debut as a Director at Limelight. He had previously directed “Driving Miss Daisy” at Stage Aurora. Mr. Robinson is well known in theatre in the North Florida having performed for over 30 years, not only as an actor but in his cabaret shows as a vocalist doing a variety of music including jazz, gospel, R&B, and show tunes.
Farce and fast comedy requires intelligent and well-rehearsed actors and “Til Beth Do Us Part” certainly fills the bill. One of difficulties in this type of show is knowing when to hold for the laughs, since no two audiences laugh at the same jokes. For example the line “I’m happier than a rat in a Velveeta Factory” was a very funny line (we thought) but did not generate much reaction while Beth’s line to Hank “Save your breath, Hank. You’ll need it later to blow up your date!” was a crowd pleaser.
This is a fast-paced show and within two hours you will be laughing on your way home.
'TIL BETH DO US PART
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM