A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
The All Beaches Experimental Theatre (ABET) opened its Christmas show November 30th, 2018. This holiday comedy, which runs through December 16th, is sponsored by John Johnson. The theatre is located at 544 Atlantic Boulevard in Neptune Beach, Florida. Visit abettheatre.com or call 249-7177 for additional information and reservations.
If comedies are your thing, then this show, written by Jones Hope Wooten is for you. Never heard of Jones Hope Wooten? The name is a collective term for playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, three successful television writers who joined forces, moved South, and began writing laugh-out-loud stage comedies, notably filled with strong roles for women. Several of their plays have drawn large audiences to our local theatres. If you saw and liked “The Dixie Swim Club,” “Always A Bridesmaid,” or “The Savannah Sipping Society,” you will love “Dashing Through The Snow.”
This play takes place in Tinsel, Texas in the Snowflake Inn, a bed and breakfast known for celebrating Christmas 365 days a year. Innkeeper Trina Walcott, portrayed by Laurel Wilson, has an always-smiling face and a down-home Texas accent. Lou Ida, the inn’s only employee, portrayed by Susan Roche, is the housekeeper and cook. We don’t actually see Lou Ida during the first act, but do hear her voice; she has a loud mouth and sounds quite tipsy.
Mr. Boykin (Ron Veasy) is a guest we hear but never see. He calls the desk a number of times with complaints and ridiculous demands related to his food (he would like his bacon cooked crispy on only one side).
The play consists of four acts, each with a story that stands alone. Act One brings Mrs. Claus (Chelsea Black) and Binky (Allen Morton) one of Santa’s elves to the Inn for what appears to be a clandestine twosome; however, a clever twist reveals that all is not as it seems.
In Act Two, we find siblings Hoyt (Joseph Stearman) and Donna Jo (Lauren Appleton) trying to end a feud of thirty years between Ennis (Chelsea Black) and Della (Claire Cimino), their aunts. The two sisters are a feisty pair and the cause of the problem isn’t totally clear. Do they reconcile? See for yourself.
After a brief intermission, we find Ainsley (Joseph Stearman) and Lenora (Amy Tillotson) at the Snowflake Inn; they are featured actors in a touring company’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” Both are dressed in costumes appropriate for the roles of Dickens’ characters. They at first appear to have come to the inn to practice but we soon learn they have a secret reason; we won’t reveal it but you can guess it’s comical. The company’s stage manager Paulette (Susan Roche) brings this act to a kooky finish.
Act Four has the Futrelle sisters preparing for the quickly planned Christmas Eve wedding of sister Honey Raye (Amy Tillotson). This is her sixth marriage to the same man and he is marrying her only because she promised to pay off his credit card debt. Her sisters Frankie (Jeanie Lijoi), Twink (Ellen Hare), and Rhonda (Rhodie Jackson) are present, dressed in what they could find in a hurry. The costumes are hilarious, as is the dialogue between the sisters. Wedding guest Reynerd is a friend of the family and a very funny character – a delightful and light-hearted angel, compete with a lovely halo, portrayed by Michael Ray, a veteran comic.
“Dashing Through The Snow” is directed by Gloria Ware. This is her first show at ABET as a director but she has performed many roles on our local stages since moving here five year ago. She holds the unique distinction of having won two Pelican Acting Awards in the same season for two different shows. Her direction holds the elements of the play together with consummate skill while her delightful cast keeps the dialogue sharp and the comedy swift, while milking the show for every drop of tomfoolery.
Ware also designed the marvelous set and Allen Morton, Mr. Set Decoration himself, filled it with wonderful Christmas decorations. “Dashing Through The Snow” sends everyone home with a smile.
This is the ABET’s third play in their new home in Neptune Beach and patrons are enjoying the new theatre space, the abundant free parking, and the many food options within walking distance. Up next for ABET is a special show on December 21 and 22 when Jason Woods will appear in a unique and amazing one-man production of “A CHRISTMAS CAROL.” Advisory: Don’t miss it, we’ve seen the show several times and it’s wonderful. Call 249-7177 for tickets or visit www.abettheatre.com.
The Production Team included Gloria Ware (Director), Justin T. Brown (Stage Manager), Andrew McCraney (Light/Sound Operator), Allen Morton (Set Decoration), Amy Tillotson & Gloria Ware (Costume Design), Bryan Frank (Light/Sound Design), and Caryl Butterley ( Graphic Design & Production Photography.