Fine Acting in 5 & Dime’s “Topdog/Underdog”

Jacksonville’s 5 & Dime Theatre opened Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize winning drama “Topdog/Underdog” on June 19, 2017. The production will remain on stage through July 2 at their theatre, which is downtown at 112 East Adams Street.

This show has two characters, African-American brothers Lincoln and Booth. Their names were reportedly bestowed by their thoughtless and negligent father as a joke.

Booth is portrayed with convincing assurance by Terrance Scott, a Douglas Anderson School of the Arts graduate who is now attending St. Augustine’s Flagler College as a theatre major. His Booth is uneducated, unemployed, and rash; a womanizer whose ambition is make enough money as a three-card monte dealer to support his dream of a lavish life.

If you aren’t familiar with this scam, don’t worry. Lincoln, who once made his living with his sleight-of-hand skills and remains an expert, is willing to teach his younger brother, and by extension, teach the audience. You’ll learn the most important thing about the game: you can’t possibly win, so don’t bet money on your ability to choose the red card.

Lincoln is portrayed by David Girard, a well-known and well-regarded Jacksonville actor. He has an impressive resume filled with challenging roles in cutting-edge plays, and most recently appeared in the acclaimed production of “Fences” at Players by the Sea. Lincoln is having a difficult time. His job has an absurdist quality: he works in an arcade in an amusement park, appearing in whiteface as Abraham Lincoln, complete with a top hat, a comically fake black beard, and formal dress. He spends his day falling to the ground after being felled by eager tourists firing blank bullets. He and his wife have recently separated, and Booth has agreed to allow him to share his shabby rented room.

As the story progresses, their family history and unfulfilled dreams are revealed in bits and pieces. Booth boasts about his sexual conquests, while Lincoln is saddened by the failure of his marriage and worries about losing his job. And both face an uncertain future. Scott and Girard are both high-wattage performers, who bring the struggles of these two intense characters to life.

Set designer Tom Fallon’s set evokes an entire world of low-rent life in Booth’s room. The walls are painted a garish red. Booth sleeps in a rumpled twin bed, while Lincoln sleeps in a lounge chair. No stove, no refrigerator. A bathroom shared with other tenants is down the hall.

Director Lindsay Curry and Co-Director Lee Hamby, aided by the cast, have achieved the right fevered tone for the mercurial mood swings of this provocative script.

Advisory: many adjectives have been used to describe this play. “Raw” and “gritty” are two that come to mind. The play contains strong language and adult content and is not suitable for children.

The 5 & Dime Theatre has done a number of amazing things during its relatively short history. Bringing live theatre downtown is a major accomplishment. The company has also discovered that Monday night can be a theatrical night in our city; Monday performances are particularly appreciated by those involved with other theatres who aren’t free to attend showings later in the week.

The Production Staff included: Lindsay Curry (Director), Lee Hamby (Co-Director & Costume Design), Katie Cress (Stage Manager), Shanika Flood (Assistant Stage Manager), Jim Wiggins (Lighting Design), Nathaniel Wilson (Backstage Crew), and Kaiti Barta (Dramaturg).

If you enjoy fine acting then don’t miss “Topdog/Underdog.” For tickets and additional information, visit the5anddime.org or call 904-637-5100. They also post information about upcoming events on their Facebook page; their next scheduled production is a reader’s theatre version of “Bent” during July 14-16.

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.

october, 2021

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