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Theater Notes: Florida Rep has a hit

By Staff | Apr 1, 2015

There is a delightful production of a classic Horton Foote play on the stage at Florida Repertory Theatre. It’s a remarkable example of a lively comedy that also has the magic to make you think. Even the title makes you think: “Dividing the Estate.”

In the playbill, they have that ‘S’ looking like a dollar sign.

As you enter Florida Rep, as always, they dazzle you with a perfect set. This one draws you back to the time and place, a very wealthy family’s mansion in Harrison, Texas, 60 miles from the big city Houston, circa 1987.

The chandelier hanging there, alone, could pay the salary of the high school teacher character in the play for two years. Later on we learn there is possibly oil under that mansion. The plot thickens. The lust for greed gathers momentum.

Horton Foote knows how to write plays. I could not find a line in “Dividing the Estate” that I didn’t marvel at. The legend is that actors love being in a Horton Foote play or movie, because the lines he writes fit the very depths of his characters. They get to deliver words that are lyrical, often hilariously funny, and never boring.

Just for the record, he wrote the film versions of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and that Robert Duvall classic, “Tender Mercies.” This play won for Horton Foote the Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding new off-Broadway play and the Obie Award for playwriting.

The play has 13 characters. No two alike, even though most of them are blood related. A play like this could make an average director gray haired by opening night. But not Robert Cacioppo, who got triumphant performances out of every one of his cast. His direction is noisy and loud, rambunctious and full of rich nuances.

For just one example, the performances he got from the two teenage girls, the silent moments of them picking at their nails, eyes into their compacts, pouting, not worrying about other people, only about the money they’re going to get, or not, is professional directing at its best. Kudos to you, Cacioppo.

No one in that audience falls asleep as the gifted playwright rolls out his story that takes place in the framework of wealthy insensitivity, privilege gone sour, greed even in decent people and politics that will make some of your hair curl, but that’s “Dividing the Estate.” For me, it’s theater where there was no other place I would rather have been than there with Horton Foote, 13 gifted actors, and a director who knows what he’s doing.

I predict a sell out. It was early in the run, and already many days are at limited availability, so move fast, please. Get your tickets now. Again, it’s my kind of theater. It’s not a play you’ll forget about a week later. It’s a gem of a find, well crafted comedy that also has its dark and confronting sides. It will make you look at what you’re going to worry about when they divide up your estate. Money will do that every time. Even in your family. What fun to think and talk about. It is just what good live theater can make happen. I urge you to experience it for yourself.

The play runs until April the 8. The box office is (239) 332-4488. The website is floridarep.org. Florida Rep is at 2268 Bay Street in downtown Fort Myers.

Theater addendum

There was a one-night stand in Sanibel of a finely staged reading of the play “ART” by Yasmina Reza on March 23. Three actresses from The Big Arts Community Players group, Dorothy Donaldson, Harriet Edwards and Judy Koloski, brought the play to life with adept direction from Robert Runke. Thanks to all four of you for keeping Community Theater more than alive in Sanibel.

And another chance will be when they bring us A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, April 16-18 and 23-25. Hope to see you there. It’s my favorite Gurney play. Call the box office, 395-0900, and the delightful Janet Scully will help you with tickets.