LIMELIGHT THEATRE REVIEW
DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]
St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened “A Facility for Living,” a dark comedy, on March 4th, 2016, with a run planned through March 26th on the Matuza Main Stage at 11 Old Mission Avenue. For reservations, call 904-825-1164, or visit limelight-theatre.org.
In today’s theatre world, there are plays for everyone. We have plays for small children, teenagers, parents of small children and teenagers, and mystery fans, and now, thanks to playwright Katie Forgette, a play for senior citizens! Limelight’s Florida premier of “Facility” should be a big hit for the forty-four thousand (2012 stats) or more retired folks living in St. Johns County. The Dual Critics attended the first Saturday performance, which had an almost full house audience.
Limelight’s publicity says this is a comedy that dares to confront the issue of aging in America. Be forewarned, it is politically incorrect, a bit irreverent and contains a smattering of obscenities and references to sex. And it also evokes a lot of laughs.
The play is set in a nursing home sometime in the near future, where an overwhelming need for care of the elderly exists. To provide the needed facilities, the government has outsourced all convicted criminals elsewhere and repurposed the emptied penitentiaries as care facilities throughout the country. Medicare no longer exists and patients are for the most part, required to pay their own way; if they are unwilling or unable to sell their assets, the government will seize them and auction them off.
The three residents we initially meet are not happy people at all, as ward rules are strict. They have only one television station, which has only one station, which shows only Ronald Regan movies. And patients who are ill because of overweight or a history of tobacco or alcohol use are advised that since they caused the problem, they are responsible for paying for all related care.
Director Margaret Kaler has done dynamite casting for this satire which in her words “exposes social injustice with humor.” We first meet Wally, played by Brad Segal, who is making his Limelight debut. Wally uses a walker, yells a lot, and wears a hearing aid that mostly does not work since the head nurse hides his batteries.Rhonda Bentz is new to Limelight and portrays Nurse Claudia, whose professional role model clearly must have been Nurse Racheted from “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Nurse Claudia is an angry young woman, with no empathy for the elderly, and no interest in their plight. She is a bully and her interactions with the residents are focused on making up new rules which limit their activities and are oppressive. Ms.Bentz moved to St. Augustine from central Florida, where she played happier roles in many musicals, including “The Sound of Music,” “Nine to Five,” and “The King and I.”
Kevin, Nurse Claudia’s ward attendant, is portrayed by E-Rock Rasmussan, as a young energetic hippy type, who has massive tattoos on both his arms and wears earrings. He does seem to like the patients and is much kinder toward them than his antagonistic boss. Mr. Rasmussan was last seen on Limelight’s stage in “The Addams Family” as an Ancestor.
Things change early in the play when Joe Taylor arrives as a patient. As played Lou Agresta, he is a former actor, now disabled due to a broken hip. As he involves the patients in theatrical discussions and limited performances for other inmates, they become energized and more optimistic. Mr. Agresta has an impressive resume of roles in this area and we recall seeing him previously at Players by the Sea in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.
Joining Joe and Wally in planning a Christmas play are residents Judy, portrayed by Mary-Jung Martin, who previously appeared as Mrs. McCarthy in Limelight’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and Mitzi, portrayed by Natalie Beltrami who appeared in several plays in St. Augustine a number of years ago, and has appeared as well in theatres in Michigan, Oregon and California.
A seventh actor who never appears on stage, but contributes a lot of the play’s humor as an announcer on the ward’s loud speaker, is Stage Manager Jennifer Latke. Our favorite announcement informed residents that “The Vasectomy Van will be in your neighborhood today.”
Act Two opens with some mild sex talk, nothing really graphic, but we thought we would let you know. The second act also includes a Christmas scene portraying the birth of Jesus, which is very funny but may be a bit irreverent for some patrons. Kevin steals the show, as he plays all three wise men.
We won’t reveal the surprise happy ending. This play reminded us of a Saturday Night Live skit, with offbeat humor that was well acted. While it’s obviously not for children or teenagers, those fifty or older — or those interested in the social issues dramatized in the production — should not miss this.