THEATRE JACKSONVILLE REVIEW
DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]Theatre Jacksonville opened the comedy/drama “The Melville Boys” at 2032 San Marco Boulevard on March 4th, 2016 with a run scheduled through March 20th.
The play, written by Canadian playwright Norm Foster in 1984, ran Off-Broadway in 1992. One of Canada’s foremost playwrights, he has written over fifty plays; “Boys” was the second one written. Additionally, he is the author of “Watching Jeopardy,” a mystery novel available through Amazon. Foster has left his mark on Jacksonville in the past. In 2013 he not only brought an original one act “On a First Name” to TJ for their Guerilla Show Series, but also played the male lead in a marvelous performance. And in 2014, Theatre Jacksonville produced “Hilda’s Yard,” an excellent comedy.
“The Melville Boys” is a two act play set in a cabin on a lake somewhere in the United States. The Melville boys are two brothers, Lee and Owen, who plan a weekend of fishing, relaxing, and drinking beer while two hundred miles away from their jobs in a plastics factory.
While at the cabin, they meet sisters Mary and Loretta and by the end of the first act, the boys have taken them out to dinner, followed by dancing, and then have extended the encounter to an overnight stay.
However, this is not a carefree encounter. Lee, age 33, has a wife and two children at home and Owen, the younger brother, is engaged to be married in a few weeks. If the script initially seems like a TV sitcom, the situation becomes far more complicated when we learn that Lee has cancer. We will leave the conclusion of this gem of a play, which, despite Lee’s bleak prognosis, is filled with humor throughout, for you to discover.
Under the direction of Michelle Simkulet, the production abounds in skillful performances by the four perfectly cast actors. Michelle directed Foster’s “Hilda’s Yard” and comedy is her forte.
Lee is played by Jordan Born with integrity, sincerity and warmth. His conversations with Mary, who is his date, range from very humorous to seriously dramatic. Mr. Born has appeared in two previous shows at TJ, as Captain Keller in “The Miracle Worker” and as Major Hawkins in “Love Goes to Press.”
Owen as portrayed by Myles Hughes is probably the funniest person in the show although he has his serious moments as he and brother Lee discuss his future. His last role on TJ’s stage was a wild one as well, as Christopher Wren in “The Mousetrap.”Miles Laura Para as Loretta plays a total uninhibited woman looking for a good time with total abandon. How skilled is she as a comedienne? She will have you laughing about dying! A very busy lady on stages throughout the area, she has delighted audiences at TJ in “The Mousetrap,” “As You Like It,” and “Is He Dead?”
With the role of Mary, we welcome Jessica Palombo Gustafson back to the stage. She has been busy carving out an impressive career as a News Director with Public Broadcasting. We have been a fan of Jessica going back to her Orange Park Community Theatre days. After her portrayal as Desdemona in a production at Players by the Sea, we wrote “Jessica Palombo is marvelous and believable as the dignified yet vulnerable young beauty deeply in love with Othello.” In “Boys” she is staggeringly funny as she cries and sobs while eating a cake she made that included turnips as a main ingredient.
Technical Director/Set Designer David Dawson’s cabin walls are beautifully minimalistic, while the interior has realistic details that include a kitchen and a mounted deer head. Sally Pettegrew’s 1980 attire for the characters reflects their temperaments.
The production team included: Director, Michelle Svenson Simkulet; Assistant Director, Garth Kennedy; Stage Manager, Tyler Lewis; Light Board Operator, Audie Gibson; Sound Board Operator, Mark Rubens.
Playwright Foster’s approach to character development has provided the opportunity for uncommonly powerful and creative performances in all four roles. It is one of the best plays we have seen this year; don’t miss it. For reservations, call 904-396-4425 or visit theatrejax.com.