A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
The All Beaches Experimental Theatre has joined in partnership with Actors Collective, one of Jacksonville’s newest theatre groups, to present a unique theatre experience during June 29 – July 7, 2019. The full name of the production is One by Tenn Plus Eight: Short Stories for the Stage, and brings multiple theatrical stories to life.
Actors Collective (www.ActorsCollective.com) was founded by Caryl Butterley, who directed the show. Of note, she spent over twenty years immersed in New York’s theatre scene in roles that included producer, director, and actor. She returned to Jacksonville several years ago and has directed a number of shows at ABET and The 5 & Dime Theatre.
The set, according to the program, was “pulled from ABET’s stash of moveable shapes.” The open stage has a black background, with four pieces of furniture: two chairs and two wooden boxes used as needed for beds, couches, and tables.
Humor is a major theme (but not recommended for children due to language). The production structure is that of short plays, most written by local playwrights, interspersed with monologues, written by Karen Konzen, a talented actor with numerous appearances on our local stages. Monologue titles suggest the content and include Thickness of Water, Chemistry, Driving School, Vocation, Travel, and Propagation. Each monologue is performed by a different actor.
The plays begin with a two-hander, starring Jason Collins and Milan Alley in playwright Elaine Smith’s provocative and frantic Ten Minute Life, followed by Self Care, written by well-known local playwright Kelby Siddons, with Kristen Walsh as the care seeker. Spare Change was written by former Jacksonville actor Cameron J. Pfahler who is now a screen writer living in Cleveland. Collins again appears and is joined by Rich Pintello, who was most recently seen in a terrific performance of I Hate Hamlet at Theatre Jacksonville.
The funniest show of the evening, judging from the amount of laughter from the audience, was Sweet Jesus by Nathan Sanders, who has written many plays including the award-winning The Sugar Bean Sisters, which was performed at ABET several seasons ago. This two-hander was handled hilariously by Brooks Anne Meierdierks as a housewife being interviewed by persistent reporter Christopher Watson.
Those of you on social media would enjoy Social Inquisition by Adam Nathaniel Davis, a story about a woman (Brooks Anne Meierdierks) arrested for clicking “Like” for postings viewed as questionable. Sound serious? It was a lot of fun even as it provoked fear of being watched over by big brother. This segment stars the entire cast.
It’s good to have local playwright Olivia Gowan back writing plays and doing comedy again. Roots in the Wind was Southern and humorous.
The end of the Act Two brought the surprise of the evening with Talk To Me Like The Rain and Let Me Listen, an early one-act play by Tennessee Williams. After all the previous comedy, it was quite a change of pace. The setting was a run-down hotel room, the characters an unnamed man (Christopher Watson) and woman (Milan Alley). He’s an alcoholic; she wants to go away. The dialogue paints a bleak picture of these tragic entwined lives. Watson and Alley were superb in these demanding roles.
The acting by the entire cast was excellent, and they made smooth line-perfect transitions into varied roles. The audience especially appreciated the hilarious performances of Jason Collins and Brooks Ann Meierdierks.
We found this an exciting theatrical experience and as far as we know it is a first for Jacksonville. Don’t miss it. For additional information about Actors Collective, visit actorscollective.com. ABET’s theatre is located at 544 Atlantic Boulevard in Neptune Beach, Florida. Visit abettheatre.com or call 249-7177 for additional information and reservations.