by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected] ABET opened “On The Verge or the Geography of Yearning,” a provocative play by Eric Overmyer, in Atlantic Beach, Florida on May 6, 2016. The show will run through May 22. Visit abettheatre.com or call (904) 249-7177 for additional information and reservations.
The Dual Critics invite you to take a trip with ABET. You only need a ticket to see the play and an adventurous spirit to trek with three Victorian-era American ladies for two hours while visiting the fictional mysterious and unexplored land of Terra Incognita.
The three explorers Mary (Sinda Nichols), Fanny (Karen Overstreet), and Alexandra (Oliva Gowan), begin their trip in 1888, dressed in floor-length period dresses and pith helmets, and armed with umbrellas. They journey without porters or guides, which means that they must carry their own luggage and hack their way through thick jungle foliage.
Their entire journey takes place on ABET’s intimate stage. The set, by Anne Roberts, was fabulous, one of the best and most intriguing we’ve ever seen, with mountains and valleys in the background, covered with fabric simulating mist. Dialogue and the magical lighting design of Bryan Frank conveys information about climate and geography. For example, in a land covered with snow, a cool blue covers everything, while in a hot sandy desert, red bathes the travelers.
The ladies stop often, to eat, talk about past adventures, and discuss issues, such as the desirability of trousers for women. They soon realize they are traveling through time as well as foreign lands, as they find various artifacts along the way: a metal egg beater, an ‘I Like Ike’ button, a newspaper clipping about Richard Nixon.
They meet a number of interesting characters during their journey, all portrayed with style by Lucas Hopper. The characters include Alphonse, a cannibal who ate a German pilot and now speaks with a German accent; Grover, Fanny’s husband; a Yeti, who growls but has no lines; George Troll, an avant-garde poet; Mr. Coffee, a classy guy in a white suit; Madame Nhu, a psychic; Gus, an animated American teenager; and Nicky, who owns a bar and grill, and is also a singer. Obviously, Mr. Hooper spent a lot of time changing costumes and also had a lot of fun bringing the characters to life. He appeared recently as Griff Rodgers in the world premier of Olivia Gowen’s “Cotton Alley” at Players by the Sea.
Our fiercely independent wandering ladies wind up in 1955, and each takes a different direction. But no spoilers here.
Director Caryl Butterley, who found this 1985 gem, had wanted to produce it and ABET gave her the opportunity. She could not have cast it any better than Ms. Nichols, Ms. Overstreet and Ms. Gowan. All three are well-known performers with impressive credits on our local stages. They are truly very funny and their performances were obviously meticulously worked out.
We liked this play, although we found the final scenes by the playwright a bit overly long. However, it was staged with relentless energy throughout and we can certainly recommend it as an entertaining and unusual evening of theatre.
To add to the evening’s experience, The Bookmark, an independent bookstore located in Neptune Beach, is supporting the production by donating books about women explorers to ABET, with two copies to be awarded as prizes to audience members at each performance.
The Production Team included: Caryl Butterley, Director; Olivia Tillotson, Choreographed Movement; Betsy Totten Darnell, Stage Manager, Light and Sound Tech; Janelle Rosko Jones & Lora Christl, Stage Managers; Ann Roberts, Set Design & Scenic Artist; Lori Guadagno, Scenic Artist; Bryan Frank, Lighting Design; Caryl Butterley, Sound Design & Properties; Amy Tillotson (Costume Design).
Of note, “On the Verge,” concludes ABET’s current season. A special summer event is scheduled during August 12 – 14, 2016 when ABET founder Carson Merry Baillie, along with several actors from ABET’s beginnings returns to the stage in a staged reading of “The Waverly Gallery,” a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
ABET’s 25th season begins with “Merrily We Roll Along,” a musical with lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, which will be onstage September 9 – 25, 2016.