Awkward Silence: A Comedy Troupe made its debut Saturday November 1, 2014 on the main stage of Players by the Sea with performances at 8:00 and 10:30 pm. The Dual Critics attended the first show which had nearly a full house; an excellent crowd considering Jacksonville was under the spell of the Florida-Georgia game which takes over the city once a year.

As critics, we rarely go to comedy clubs, as we are usually seeing on-stage plays throughout North Florida. We were attracted to this show when we saw that the performers involved were local actors whom we have seen in many performances in different venues.

We did not know what to expect but it can best be described as like seeing a Saturday Night Live show for two hours! The program listed twenty-four sketches covering assorted topics that recently made the news as well as some oldies, like “Jaws vs. Thespians,” and “Dracula’s TEMPer.” The content was designed for mature audiences.

The production was the idea of Gary Baker, JU graduate, who became an established actor on the local scene, well known for many zany performances at community theaters. He went to Chicago to study improv at The Second City, and began giving improv workshops when he returned to Jacksonville. He is also on the staff of Players by the Sea in the education department.

We won’t try to tell you about all of the sketches, instead, take a look at some of the titles and you will get the idea. Remember, the name of the group is a COMEDY troupe, and the name of their game is laughs, of which there were plenty. Titles included: “Ebola,” “Airport Security,” “Straight Men Saying Gay Things,” “Anger Management,” and “Florida Gubernatorial Debate.”

One of the most humorous was “Dracula’s TEMPer,” in which Dracula (David Girard) is complaining to the Temp Service Manager (Jason Collins) about his assignment as a worker in a garlic processing factory.

Another one that had the audience howling was modestly titled “Bill Frick.” It seems an actor received a play review and his last name was misspelled as “Prick.” Use your imagination as to where that one went!!!

One sketch that hit home was “The Sponsorship.” A very dignified attorney from a prestigious law firm approaches a theatre group, generously offering to sponsor a production since theatre is a such a valuable community resource. Unfortunately, he finds reasons to reject each play proposed for sponsorship.

Since it was a football kind of day, “Winston’s Winning,” the final sketch, concerned a well-known FSU quarterback and his attention-getting brief address to the student body in the university cafeteria. A very funny bit as presented on stage.

Several times between sketches a Yelp feature, promising Real People and Real Reviews, was presented as a short TV commentary, with a performer reading a review about a local business. The funniest concerned food stores and the availability of parking at a popular shopping center.

The players who were constantly on and off the stage included: Gary Baker, Jason Collins, David Girard, T.R. Hainline, Jennifer Johnston, Kat McLeod, Abigail Saenz, and Katie Swider.

We were impressed at the professionalism of the production. All the performers were miked, so the audience did not miss words. Erik Anderson, who was the sound designer for Players’ productions of “Rent” and “The Lyons,” was up in the booth pushing buttons for the sound and video segments on a screen above the stage. Nicole Kosnik was the light tech. Her past lighting credits at Players include “Passing Strange,” “Beehive,” and “The Fox on the Fairway.” In addition, many costume changes were required, and all kinds of props and various set pieces were brought on and off stage.

We are sure that the very successful launching of this venture has the troupe thinking of their future. It would seem that Jacksonville Theatre audiences could support more comedy shows such as this, depending on their frequency. Thanks Awkward Silence, for a delightful evening, that featured fine talented performers, who were really FUNNY.

About Will Henley