5 & DIME THEATRE COMPANY DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
Jacksonville’s 5 & Dime Theatre opened the Florida premiere of African-American playwright Tanya Barfield’s thought provoking drama “The Call” on August 11, 2017. The production will be on stage at their downtown theater at 112 Adams Street through August 27th. For reservations and additional information, visit www.the5anddime.org.
During this first season in their new home, The 5 & Dime has staged an impressive program of new works seen for the first time in this city. The schedule for the rest of the year with “Evil Dead, The Musical” (October 13-28) and “HIR” (December 1-17), promises more of the theatre’s cutting-edge approach to programming.
“The Call” revolves around a white couple in their thirties who have repeatedly tried to have a child; fertility drugs and IVF procedures have brought only pain and heart-breaking failure. Annie and Peter finally decide to adopt a baby girl. When they are unable to adopt an American-born child, they decide to adopt a child born in Africa instead, but then but encounter doubts and obstacles.
The action takes place in their upscale apartment, which was created by Set Designer Tom Fallon and lavishly furnished by Good Eye House + Style. We first meet the couple as they are entertaining two of their long-time friends. Rebecca and Drea are African-American, well-educated, vivacious and gay; they have recently married. While there is a lot of humor in this act, the conversation eventually becomes filled with concerns related to issues facing a white couple raising a black child. Topics include choosing a culturally appropriate name and learning how to care for a black child’s hair.
Annie’s education is furthered when she gets to know Alemu, her new neighbor. He is an African immigrant now working as an engineer, and relates an African folktale meant to be supportive in an entrancing way.
During the first act, we see Annie and Peter preparing a small nursery on the right of the stage, talking excitedly about the future while painting and decorating. But things do not go smoothly as they wait for “the call” that their baby is ready to be adopted. And when they do receive a photo of the child selected for them, she appears to be about four years old, much older than the infant they had been promised. Annie is devastated, she was planning to teach her baby daughter how to walk and talk and play, and now won’t have that opportunity. Peter had been in the Peace Corps and was involved in an incident that strains his friendship with Rebecca. No spoilers here, but we promise you will leave the theatre discussing this play on the way home.
“The Call” introduces us to three fine actors in their first roles on Jacksonville stages. Cher Davis as Rebecca displayed a range of fluid emotions, from comic to serious. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and was a classical pianist at an early age.
Actor Dustin Delgross was convincing as Peter, who is initially supportive, but becomes less enthusiastic as difficulties arise. He is a theatre major in his junior year at Flagler College in St. Augustine. Past stage roles have included Senex in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and David in Agatha Christie’s “The Rats.”
Erin Salem’s portrayal of Annie was excellent; she is believable as a woman determined to become a mother. She began acting while in grade school and appeared in almost fifty shows by the time she was twenty-two. This is her first stage appearance in ten years; she took time out to marry and have a child.
The delightful Drea is played by Rhodie Jackson, whom we first saw on stage some years ago as an actor and later as a director at Orange Park Community Theatre. Since then, she has become one of the most traveled theatre persons in North Florida, directing and performing in theatres from St. Augustine to Amelia Island to Atlantic Beach.
Eugene Lindsey, fresh from his powerful performance in the leading role of August Wilson’s “Fences” at Players by the Sea, is captivating as Alemu with his unique accent. Mr. Lindsey has many outstanding credits for his past appearances; he chooses his roles with quality in mind.
Guest Director Joe Kemper’s theatrical experience as a director, educator and actor fills an entire page in the program. His directing talents have been seen in local theatres, in St. Augustine, and at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Mr. Kemper was recently selected as the new Musical Director for Douglas Anderson School of The Arts, where he will direct the “Curtains,” a musical, in November. He is very busy and much in demand, and is additionally directing Theatre Jacksonville’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which opens in September. You can experience his directing talents yourself during The 5 and Dime’s current production.
The Production Crew included: Joe Kemper (Director), Kati Barta (Assistant Director & Dramaturg), Abby Gomez (Stage Manager), Tom Fallon (Set Design), Jim Wiggins (Lighting Design), Matt Ferris (Sound Design), and Lee Hamby (Costume Design).
“The Call” is an interesting play that yes, entertains, but also makes you think. Seating is limited so plan your visit in advance. And go early; you’ll find interesting restaurants within walking distance.