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Theater Notes: Two plays both must sees and different

By Staff | Apr 13, 2016

We are so lucky to have so much glorious live theater available to us in S.W. Florida. Here are two I highly recommend, such opposites, one light and almost silly, and one dark, and almost hopeful. Get to them both.

First, there is a new version of Ibsen’s “The Enemy of the People” at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples. The playwright is Rebecca Lenkiewicz, with a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund. Under the superb direction of Kristen Coury, Gulfshore’s founder and artistic director, that stage is electrified. There are nothing but brilliant performances by the nine equity actors. You won’t see anything better on Broadway.

What is most haunting sitting there gripped, as Ibsen’s gem unfolds, is how totally relevant this 1882 masterpiece is to us living in Florida. Dr. Thomas Stockman, the man who becomes “The Enemy,” suspects and then gathers scientific evidence that the water in the Bath Spa Resort in their town is poisonous and dangerous, not only to the tourists, but for everyone. Could this be red tide? Could this be the dead fish on our beaches? His brother, Peter Stockman, is the mayor of the town. His support comes from the hotel owners, the restaurants and everyone who makes a living at the Baths.

The money people, their 1 percent, put the pressure on the mayor, the editor of the town newspaper, and the chair of the town council, and it gets to sound like our 2016 election race going on right now. The dark ending still had hope. The noise of the standing ovation given the cast at Gulfshore Playhouse tells me they will have sellout audiences. Get your tickets fast It is well worth making it to one of my must see plays of the season. It only runs to April 17. For more information visit www.GULFSHOREPLAYHOUSE.org, or call (866) 811-4111.

The second play I delighted in is at The Florida Repertory Theater. This is a romp, a laugh fest, yet with some redeeming qualities, some moral issues that challenge all the laughter.

It is “Becky’s New Car” by the venerable playwright, Steven Dietz. And the dynamic Carrie Lund knows the play must have been written for her, because she gives one of the greatest performances of her sterling career. Becky works at a car dealership doing the paperwork on all car sales. She’s married to a loveable blue collar guy, Joe, ably played by Craig Brockhorn, fresh from staring in “Twelve Angry Men.” He is so solid. You’ll love him.

The twists and turns go up and down, in and around. There is a son living with Becky and Joe, a new-age son who takes the plot on a roller coaster ride. And, very importantly, there is a rich man admirably portrayed by Peter Thomasson, who comes late in the day to the dealership to buy five cars as gifts for his employees when only Becky is in the office.

That’s when a little immorality and a few lies, some deceptions and Becky’s life goes berserk. I’ve never seen Carrie Lund having more fun. All kudos go to her.

That sold out audience that day loved it as judged by all those gray haired couples standing up in a heartfelt ovation. It only ran until April 8. For more information, call (239) 332-4488, or visit www.floridarep.org.

Young actors in

two delightful plays

We are lucky again to be given two plays you just have to see. One is a total burst of joy and boundless laughter. It’s not without poignancy, either. That play is “Almost Maine” the triumph, at Florida Southwestern State College Theatre.

I’ve seen it three times before, but I’ve never seen it done better than this one so ably directed by Professor Stuart Brown. He has the gift to get young actors performing like they’ve been to Broadway and back. Thirteen cast members, some playing two people, in a small masterpiece by playwright John Cariani.

It all takes place on Saturday night in a small, very, very rural Maine town.

We meet such a delightful array of men and woman figuring out what love is all about. You will laugh and be unable to control you pleasure at each of the encounters. And what fun they are all having up there on that Black Box Theatre Stage. They don’t miss a gag line, or dim a single real and tender situation. (The play ran until April 9.)

The second gem is “The Rauschenberg Project,” at The Laboratory Theater of Florida. It is a play for everybody! Everybody who cares about compassion and empathy, theater goers willing to support the battles for diversity in this complex world we all live in.

Leave it that warrior, Annette Trossbach, to get a grant from the Rauschenberg Foundation and then give 10 months to gather teens and college students and supporting adults together to tell their stories. The totally gripping stories are about the journey LGBT young people take, to quote Ms. Trossbach, “…to share their experiences and get the support to feel both safe and loved while they open up about coming out and being LGBT in a conservative community.”

You will be enthralled by the courage on that stage. But, you will be laughing and dazzled by the wit, the lovely ensemble performances, the music, the dancing, the sheer creativity and the true pleasure of being where great theater is taking place, right here in Ft. Myers, Florida. You will learn a lot that night from the 10 performers who light up that stage, and your support can help, to use Annette’s words again, “…. to encourage the LGBT young people of our area to stay in SWFL and contribute their skills to this community.”

(The play ran until April 5.)