Different and cutting edge “WRONG TURN AT LUNGFISH”

Orange Park Community Theatre Review

Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom  [email protected]

OPCT opened its first show of 2016 on January 15th with the fresh, original, cutting edge drama/comedy “Wrong Turn at Lungfish.” The play runs through January 31st at 2900 Moody Avenue in Orange Park, Florida. Call (904) 276-2599 or visit opct.info for additional information and reservations.

This unique show has adult language, sexual references, and violence. If none of that bothers you, be prepared to laugh a lot and probably even cry. “Lungfish,” which debuted in 1993, was written by Hollywood writer and producer Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman & Lavern and Shirley) and co-authored by Lowell Ganz (City Slickers & Splash).

wrong turn at lungfish 012The setting is a hospital room in New York City that is occupied by Peter Ravenswaal, a blind, terminally ill college professor. He is bitter, miserable, and angry that only a student nurse is assigned to care for him. University of North Florida theatre major Samantha Eigenmann follows her recent appearance, as a dancing and singing military nurse in Northeast Florida Conservatory’s “South Pacific,” in an important role as the dying man’s frustrated nurse.

Peter is a widower with no friends and no relatives. His only visitor is a volunteer reader who visits at intervals to read aloud books he has chosen. Anita is an attractive streetwise bimbo, who has, you will learn, motives other than compassion for reading to those who are aged and ill. Misty Lewis Brown is marvelous as Anita, her first role at OPCT since moving here from Bainbridge, Georgia where she lived for several years. She was very active with the Bainbridge Little Theatre as an actress, director, and administrator and is a welcome addition to the Orange Park Theatre community. As Ms. Brown reveals the details of hard-luck Anita’s past, you will find yourself hoping she finds a better life.

wrong turn at lungfish 014You see, as charming and concerned as Anita may appear to those who appreciate her volunteerism, the most important person in her life is Dominic, a low-life gangster who makes his living beating up others for a fee. Daniel Schultheis as Dominic is not nearly as funny as he was when he appeared as Howard in “Moon over Buffalo” in his last OPCT role. No sir, he is so convincing as Dominic in this role that you will have the desire to jump up on the stage and punch him out. DON’T DO IT! He is ruthless, tough-minded, and easily provoked.

Veteran actor John Pope, who plays the leading character, stepped into the part with just three days of rehearsal; he had done the role some years ago at another theatre. Long time Jacksonville veteran actor Eric Sorenson was originally cast in the part, but experienced a medical emergency and was admitted to the hospital. We are pleased to announce he is back home and resting and hopes to return to the boards next year.

We could fill this entire review with the plays, in theatres from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach, in which John Pope has either appeared as an actor or has directed over the past several years. Mr. Pope and his actress wife Sue now live in Palm Coast (and he drives back and forth to do this play, so has lots of time to study lines). Pope’s performance is superb. He conveys the absurdist aspects of a character gone blind and facing imminent death who retains his equally relevant joviality. In other words, while arrogant and confrontational, he is also unusually appealing and will have you laughing and sympathizing throughout.

Director Susan Carcaba who selected this extraordinary cast also designed the set along with Joanne Brenner. Set decoration was by Joanne and Emma Brenner, Lighting by Emma Brenner and Tim DeBorde, and sound by Emily Ockfen. The hospital room was picture perfect.

Orange Park Community Theatre could be in the running as the most comfortable theatre in North Florida. They have recently installed new seating, resulting in very comfortable chairs for their appreciative patrons.

We know that you are curious about the title – what does “Wrong Turn at Lungfish” mean? The professor is knowledgeable about evolution and while explaining the basic concepts to Anita, suggests that that the human race may have been the result of a wrong turn in development after the lungfish stage. Well, you have to admit the title is catchy.

If you enjoy different and cutting edge scripts, we hope you will see this play. And in any event, mark your calendar for March 4th when farce returns to OPCT with “Run for Your Wife.”

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.