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Theater Notes: Powerful work at Florida Rep

By Staff | May 6, 2015

Here’s a play for serious theater-goers. It tackles a topic we cannot ignore. I was worried that in that full house on a Wednesday matinee, there would be many people who might not find the play their cup of tea. But I don’t think I have ever seen more grayheads giving a heartfelt standing ovation than I saw for “Split in Three,” this world premier by Daryl Lisa Fazio that runs through May 10.

The play is not light froth. The time is 1969. In a small rural town in Mississippi in the last county where schools are still segregated. Nobody crosses the line between whites and “negroes.” The Supreme Court has just ruled that all schools will be desegregated. Tensions are high. Violence is almost inevitable.

It is here that we meet two white sisters, so different you wonder if they really were the children of the father who ran away 30 years before. Well, what unfolds is gripping, utterly real, and often macabre. Just the way the cards are dealt in real life, and we face it in every scene in this wonderful play. No one falls asleep in the audience of “Split in Three.”

That’s because it is so well crafted, so utterly funny, yet relevant, and a play that demands that we take a hard look at racism. It is beautifully performed by some veteran Florida Rep actors. Tyler Layton is brilliant in the complicated role of the big sister, Nola, who acts out her deep yen for men. One of our favorites, Rachel Burttram, is stretched to the fullest playing the outrageous younger sister, Nell. There is a young high school student, played by Ft. Myers high school student, Christian Koller, who draws us right into what it means to be the kid next door, whose mother is away, in the asylum.

The director Justin Anderson, in his debut at Florida Rep, deserves a lot of credit. He did it justice building a fine ensemble with all the gifted equity actors.

I won’t tell you more about the plot. I just know I was so glad to be in that audience, the thrill of wondering when this world premiere will get to Broadway, and imagining the amazing workshopping that went into what is still “a work in progress.” It’s an honor to celebrate Florida Rep’s commitment to bringing us plays of this depth.

“Split in Three” runs through May 10. I urge you to get some friends or family together and see it before it closes. You will not be disappointed if you like really important theater.

Florida Repertory Theatre times and details are at (239) 332-4488, or visit floridarep.org. It is at 2268 Bay Street, Fort Myers.