A Dual Critics Review
Players by the Sea opened the third edition of New Voices on June 7th at their theatre in Jacksonville Beach with the staging of the world premiere of two one-act plays, running through June 16, 2019. The performances were sponsored by Lisa and Tom Goodrich and Troy Spurlin.
New Voices is a unique educational program designed to support selected new playwrights and involves a lengthy process which provides the writers with the support of a dramaturg, a director, actors, and other theatre-related resources. The current staging is the third time we have had the pleasure of reviewing the results, which included the premier of Madame Bonaparte by Kelby Siddons, Sentences by Drew L. Brown, and A Seat at the Table by James F Webb III.
Winter and I is the first play she has written. The play is introspective and thought-provoking, revealing the inner life of the adolescent Elinor as she struggles with the realities of everyday life and externalizes her thoughts and emotions through the medium of her companion Winter.
The play runs for forty-five minutes and has four characters. Most of the dialogue comes from Elinor (Catherine Tetzlaff) and Winter (Abigail Douglas). The other two characters are Elinor’s parents; her mother portrayed by Brooklyn Murphy, her father by Reuben Olivia. Both are making their local acting debuts.
We cannot praise the performances of Ms. Tetzlaff and Ms. Douglas enough! They managed words, gestures, and challenging blocking perfectly. Both are musical theatre students at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.
Worth Culver began writing plays as a student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and Barry Bianchi: Baltimore’s Best Bail Bondsman, An American Tragedy is his first play to be produced. We don’t know how he chose Baltimore in the 1990’s as the setting for his play, but it is a choice that lends authenticity to the story. The city has had a reputation as one of the most dangerous in American (currently ranked as seventh) for an extended period. Yes, definitely a good time and place for a skilled bail bondsman.
Culver’s play is a fast-paced comedy that runs forty-five minutes with Kerry on stage the entire time. It opens with Barry sitting stage left at his desk dressed in a business suit; he is making a recording describing his services. The character is marvelously portrayed by Kerry Burke-McCloud, who teaches high school English in real life. He has two acting credits on the local stages, appearing as the very funny Dr. Einstein in Theatre Jacksonville’s Arsenic & Old Lace, and as the menacing Welch in The 5 and Dime’s God of Hell.
Barry is on the phone for most of the time, frequently helping arrange bail for a collection of characters. Ernesto Cruz (Christopher Humphries) is wheeled in sitting on a desk where he remains as he converses with Barry. Chris T. (Simon Jaeger) is another low life who calls from a wall mounted phone. Barry’s attractive wife Amanda (Rachel Thompson) calls from a pay phone to share her frustration with being unable to beat her mother-in-law at “Jeopardy” and “Family Feud.” Barry’s Italian mother Monica is portrayed by Gayle Featheringill who holds the distinction of having been involved in Player’s since its inception fifty years ago; Rueben Oliva appears as Liam. Barry’s secretary Janice is portrayed by Liz Gibson, but what you’ll see of her is mostly her feet, as she remains behind a curtain while answering the phone and talking with Barry. As the day progresses, Barry becomes increasing agitated and despairing; his future path uncertain.
Stephanie Natale Frus directed both plays; she was also the scenic designer. Originally from New York City, she has been involved in theatre for the past eighteen years in many roles – including that of Director, Actress, Choreographer and Producer. She did a marvelous job with helping these two young promising playwrights bring their scripts to life.
Additional creative team and crew members included Kayla Chouinard (Understudy Elinor); Addison Slater (Understudy Winter); Kelby Siddons (Dramaturg); Peggy McGuinness (Stage Manager); Amy Hancock (Costume Designer); Jereme Raickett (Production Manager, Lighting Designer); Chinua Richardson (Sound Designer); Jamie Getman and Sanaa Chambers (Run Crew).
If the playwrights become famous, you’ll be able to brag that you saw and applauded their first productions – so don’t miss this unique experience! The theatre is located at 106 6th Street North in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. For reservations call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org.