“I Ought To Be In Pictures” at St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre

LIMELIGHT THEATRE REVIEW

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM

IMG_7137The city of St. Augustine, Florida is filled with history that attracts multitudes of visitors each year. St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre is reenacting a bit of history of their own with a new production of their very first show, staged back in 1992. Neil Simon’s comedy/drama “I Ought To Be In Pictures” opened April 21, 2017 and will run through May 14 in the Koger-Gamache Studio Theatre. Call the box office at 904-825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org for additional information and reservations.

Neil Simon has established himself as one of America’s most notable playwrights; he has written over thirty plays and been awarded several Tonys and a Pulitzer. His plays are filled with conflicted characters, comedy, and wit. “I Ought to be in Pictures” debuted in 1980.

The story is that of Libby, a nineteen-year old woman from Brooklyn, who has journeyed to Hollywood by riding buses and hitchhiking to visit her estranged father and persuade him to help her pursue a career in film. Herb walked out on the family many years ago when Libby was still a toddler, and her unannounced visit is a complete surprise, and not at all welcome. His life is not going well; he is a burned-out screen writer who has turned to drinking and gambling. He has also given up on permanent relationships except for his weekly dates with Steffy, a studio makeup artist who is a divorcee with two children. She cares far more about their relationship than he does; he is unwilling to commit to even small steps toward a future together. Herb’s vivacious and outspoken daughter transforms his perspective, which creates most of the humor that had the full house Sunday afternoon audience laughing throughout the performance.

Actress Stephanie Santiago is making her Limelight debut in this play as Libby, portraying a resourceful young woman — she can tune up an automobile, decorate home interiors, and type up a storm. And she is determined to make sense of her father’s past abandonment. Ms. Santiago briefly studied at the Lee Strasburg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, then transferred to Florida State University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, which will doubtless help with character development in future stage roles.

We last saw Francesca Bellavista in Limelight’s production of “Hedda Gabler,” where she played the role of Aunt Julie. She studied drama in England at the London Academy of Music and Drama, and her polished English accent hinted at an interesting backstory for Steffy’s character.

IMG_7272Before the play began, Rylee Kuberra announced an unexpected change of cast. Roger Lowe, a long-time experienced Jacksonville actor, planned to appear as Herb, but had to drop out shortly before the opening due to a medical emergency (the latest word is that he is recovering nicely).  What to do?  Since “the show must go on” in accordance with the familiar adage, cancellation was not an option.

Director Bob Pritchard stepped in to do the role. While he carried a script for backup, his use was unobtrusive. His performance was marvelous and his professional experience evident. He appeared in multiple local stage productions in the past, but left  some years ago for New York, where he obtained roles in the national tour productions of “Fiddler on The Roof” and ”The Wizard of Oz.” He has returned to live in this area and is a great asset to the local theatre scene.

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Set Designer Dom Grasso and Lead Set Painter Nancy Grasso have created an appropriately modest and somewhat disordered bachelor’s residence.

Additional production members included Shellie Long (Properties), Ryan Walker (Light and Sound Board Operator), Francesca Bellavista (Assistant Stage Manager), Beth Lambert (Costumes), and Britt Corry (Lighting Designer).

Don’t miss this opportunity to see fine performers and to enjoy the witty Neil Simon characters and their sharp dialogue in a play that has both humor and depth.

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.
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