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Theater Notes: One you missed and one still around

By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

It was a two nights, two plays week. One play was here for a short run, and I can only regret that you might have missed it. It was “The Amish Project,” put on by the collaboration of Theater Conspiracy and the Drama Department, at Florida South West College.

I regret your missing it because it may well be the very best thing I have seen this season. Yes, it was that dazzling and a totally gripping and satisfying night in the theater. Even more memorable, it was a one woman show, a genuine tour de force, in a play that would win my Tony Award vote absolutely.

The actress was Tera Nicole Miller. She plays seven characters. A daunting task for sure. The playwright, Jessica Dickey, gave her superb lines. There’s not a dull moment in it. And Bill Taylor directed it, one of his finest achievements.

The play is based on a crazy shooting in a school room in Pennsylvania Amish country. What happens after the shooting is about as inspiring as it gets. And Ms. Miller makes it all come to life. I’d drive Alligator Alley to see it again if she ever does it out on the East Coast. It truly was that stunning. I urge you keep your ears out for other things they do at FSWC the rest of the year. Right now you can see another fine play from the collaboration, that I’ve heard good things about at Theater Conspiracy, “The Bluest Eyes.” Marsha Wagner will review it.

But, I saw a second play this week, and it’s one that was difficult for me. It’s at one of my favorite theaters in all of Southwest Florida, The Laboratory Theater of Florida, out there on Second Avenue in downtown Ft. Myers. They have done some of the finest, most courageous plays I’ve been privileged to see. But this one, this one was not for me. Ironically, it was a Tony Award Winner, and had one of the longest runs on Broadway the year it opened. It is “Art” by Yasmina Reza. I remember seeing it in New York after it won the Tony, and I didn’t like it. I sat in that audience mumbling to my friends, “This not what I come to theater for.” Some agreed with me and some did not. That happened this time, too.

Most of you know the plot. A guy pays a lot of money for a painting that is basically all white, with a few white lines drawn in it. His best friend thinks he’s nuts, and a third friend gets trapped into taking sides. There’s endless bickering, and talk, talk, talk. I sat there, mumbling “so what?” And worse, I said to a couple of friends, “What a waste for such talent.” Because the actors mouthing all the blah blah gave solid performances.

I left the theater dissatisfied. I kept thinking of that old movie, “Dinner With Andre.” It was a giant hit at the movie house in the university town where I taught. I kept getting into trouble saying “Blah, blah.” This isn’t what I go to movies or to plays for.

So, let’s say, if you liked “Dinner With Andre,” you’ll like the fine production of “Art” at The Theater Laboratory of Florida.” It runs until Feb. 27. Call the box office at (239) 218.0481, or visit www.LaboratoryTheaterFlorida.com.