A Romantic Comedy is part of the Historic Theatre’s 100th Season
A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes and Leisla Sansom
Theatre Jacksonville opened “Love Quest,” the third show of its 100th Season, on February 21, and will remain through March 8, 2020. This contemporary romance, which brings new insights into today’s tactics for seeking a mate, was written by Mary Maguire and Steven McGraw; both were in the audience on opening night.
Theatre Jacksonville is a city treasure founded in 1919. Afterward, Philanthropist Carl S. Swisher donated land and financing for the construction of the company’s historic San Marco facility. An endowment in 1997 by Harold K. Smith provided funds for maintenance and the building was formally named The Harold K. Smith Playhouse in 2000 in his honor.
The theatre’s first show in the San Marco facility was “Boy Meets Girl” (1938). Some themes don’t age; The current play is also about looking for love. But the quest just isn’t as easy as it was in the past. The staging uses a 3-sided set that revolves frequently; the power is provided by sturdy hustling back stage crew members.
The first setting we see in “Love Quest” is the interior of the home of Kate Crawford, who lives in Los Angeles. She is a divorcee who wants to begin dating, but finds that dating opportunities don’t just happen. It seems that nowadays, dating is done by computer and she has to learn about video screens and new meanings for words like “cougar.” Kate’s uncertainty and frustration is well portrayed by Sarah Boone, who is the theatre’s Executive Director in real life. She has appeared on this stage a number of times in the past, and has also appeared in a number of venues, notably in Los Angeles and New York, as a cabaret artist.
Her daughter Megan (Anna Hobbs) knows just what Kate should do: sign up for “Love Quest,” an online dating service. Megan is a positive influence throughout, at times acting almost like a cheerleader – a cheerleader with the technical skills needed to guide her mother through online obstacles.
The second setting is the office of Brook Davis (Sara Beth Gerard). She is a fashion designer who is much younger and far more sophisticated than Kate. While she is confident about her talents as a designer, she needs a man in her life. Romance doesn’t interest her; she needs an escort to an upcoming awards event. The answer is of course Love Quest. She has a shop assistant, a young Frenchman named Bové, portrayed with flair by Rich Pintello, who brews her coffee, cleans up the place, runs errands, and gives her advice from time to time.
Kate and Brook meet during their quest and become fast friends with a common interest. While they do find men who are interested in meeting them, the encounters are often less than thrilling. Kate finds Hal (John Valdo Glover) attractive, but he doesn’t finish his meal and rushes away. Brook has a notable encounter with Everyman (Jas Abramowitz) who represents all the men one would not want to meet: the know it all type, the demanding type, the hero type, and even the sexually aggressive type. The girls also try frenzied “speed dating” (remember that?) but to no avail, as most of the guys are too young to interest them.
One of the funniest scenes shows Kate dressed in boxer shorts with gloves as she imagines fighting off the unwanted approaches and comments of pushy males.
The third stage setting is used to portray the many locations the two explorers visit. The background is brown, and it is furnished with a table and chairs. The locations are identified by signs hung on the wall, so you have some idea as to whether it’s a simple bar or an upscale restaurant.
We will leave the ending for you to discover. It is a fast-paced show even with all those scene changes (we lost count). Congratulations go to the Stage Manager Rhonda Fisher, Assistant Stage Managers John Blake, Dave Fisher, and Jonathan O’Leary. The unique stage construction was by Judelyn Dixon, Ben Givin, Nelson Isaac, Jake Kindy, Sam Parker, and Press Thompson and of course to Tim Watson, Technical Director and his assistant Lauren Copelin.
The play was directed by Michelle Svenson Kindy, who is also TJ’s General Manager. She has directed a number of comedies at this theatre.
We enjoyed the play; it is a different type of comedy that was a lot of fun (although not recommended for children) as evidenced by the laughter of the almost full-house audience on opening night.
Additional Technical Production Team members included Curtis J. Williams (Costume Design), Niko Collins, Jake Kindy (Light Board Operators) Nancy Wilson (Sound Board Operator), Matt King Rene Kirkland (Laptop Operators), Mollie Sharpe, Christy Wilson (Costume Dressers), Jonathan Scherf (Graphic Design) The play was sponsored by UNDERWOODS.
The theatre is located at 2032 San Marco Boulevard, in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit theatrejax.com for additional information or call 904-396-4425 for reservations.