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Theater Notes: A Three Play Weekend

By Staff | Jan 19, 2012

Theater is alive and well this season. And I was lucky enough to see three of them in one weekend to my great joy and satisfaction. One, sadly, finished its full-house run, but the other two are waiting there for you.

My favorite, probably everyone’s favorite, was Sondheim’s COMPANY, the 1971 six Tony Award winning musical, a show that is right up there in my top Ten Musicals list. I’ve seen it four times and couldn’t wait for the fifth. The production down in Naples by THEATERZONE was truly superb. Some of the success can be attributed to the all Equity cast, not a bad performance in the whole show, and Larry Alexander, Karen Molnar’s “Here’s to Ladies Who Lunch,” Renata Eastlick’s “A Hundred People Just Got Off Of The Train,” Laura Needle and “I’m Not Getting Married Today,” and Stephanie Bishop’s “Barcelona,” were all brilliant. Hat’s off to Mark Danni, the director, who brought fresh and marvelous touches to his production.

So, you missed it. But, put on your calendars, now, their next show, LITTLE WOMEN, the musical. Yes, a musical, starring Tony-Award winner, Donna McKechnie, that runs from March 8-18th. I can almost guarantee it will be sensational.

On another night, I roared in laughter to Florida Rep’s GOD OF CARNAGE. It’s a perfect show for Florida Rep. Wild and raucous, with Carrie Lund at her absolute best, bringing some much needed tenderness to a solid play by the French playwright, Yasmina Reza, author of ART and other fine plays. My colleague, Marsha Wagner, will tell you more in her review.

My last night of the exciting weekend was spent at The Laboratory Theater in Ft. Myers. This is a brave group of theater enthusiasts willing to break convention and at the same time with a commitment to do Shakespeare and Albert Camus. Annette Trossbach is the founder and artisitic director, and Ms. Trossbach has a vision of genuine merit we need to support.

Her choice to bring us ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST was a wise one, because it I can honestly say it is a must- see event in your theater season.

You may have seen the Jack Nicholson movie, and you may have caught a stage production somewhere. But this iconic play based on the Ken Kesey novel from the 1960’s, needs to be seen again and again.

The large cast from The Laboratory Theater played it with such exuberance that they deserved the standing ovation they received Friday night. Anchored by the real pro, Joann Haley, as Nurse Ratched, she gave us a powerful performance, balanced, measured, utterly believable, and she was matched by Shawn Holiday’s explosive, McMurphy. There wasn’t a dull moment in the whole evening.

The play was brilliantly cast and directed by Nykkie Rizley, who had her hands full with all those nuts on stage, but she welded together the pathos, the comedy, and the tragedy of what our society did with mental patients back then into a memorable evening of live theater.

The cast was full of incredibly good performances. You will not forget Jeremy DeFrehn’s giant Chief Bromden or Thomas Hutteman’s stuttering, vulnerable, Billy Babbit. Stephen Hooper is well known for 25 years of involvement with theater in SW Florida (most recently as the fine director of the excellent production at Theatre Conspiracy, BECKY’S NEW CAR.) He gave us a many faceted look at Dale Harding, until McMurphy shows up, the nominal leader among the mental patients at “The Institution.” And that good theater man, David Yudowitz, starred again as Aide Turkle. What fun to see them all working together to pull off so successfully the Dale Wasserman play.

It’s a perfect play for you to invite people to who don’t see much live theater, and certainly I hope you can find someone to bring who’s never seen any. They will not be disappointed, and they may well thank you, maybe forever. That’s how good I thought it was. And I’ve seen the movie, twice, and three other regional theater productions of it over the years. I’m so glad to have seen this one, and I’m eager to go again before it closes. I predict a sell out, so get your tickets soon.

It runs Jan 13-14, 18-21 at 8 pm

Jan 22 (a matinee) at 2 pm

Jan 25-28 8pm

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is at the corner of Woodford and 2nd. Their website is www.laboratorytheaterflorida.com Phone is: (239) 218-0481

Yes, yes, live theater is alive in our region. May it long live. And you can help by getting out and getting to it.