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Theater Notes: Two plays: One brilliant fluff and one totally real

By Staff | Apr 13, 2017

The brutally real play was one I would have urged you to go see. Unfortunately, its run was too short, only two weekends, March 30 through April 1 and April 6-8. I’m so disappointed that unless you heard about it elsewhere, you missed an absolute gem. Now I can only urge you to keep your eye out in the future for the work of Professor Stuart Brown, the gifted director at Florida Southwestern State College Theater.

The play I wish you had seen was “Sonnets for an Old Century” by Jose Rivera. The play required 22 actors, several of whom also doubled in costume design, scene design, sound operation, set crew and house manager.

If you were ever in a college play, and these all were students who studied with Professor Stuart Brown, you know how the hours for rehearsal and back stage work, while still finding time for study in all the other courses you were taking. The burden weighs heavy on your shoulders, they didn’t get much sleep, I bet. But the pull of being in a play, even worn out, did not dim the passion and absolutely fiery performances they all delivered. I was thrilled to be in that audience, and the impact of what the play stood for, has haunted me for days.

“Sonnets for an Old Century” at FSW will go on my list among the five best plays of the season. My heartiest congratulations to Professor Stuart Brown and all of his theater committed students. I only hope you got to see it. If not I really regret hat you missed what real theater can give. Don’t let the next chance slip away.

The second play is, yes, fluff and silliness, but creative enough to fill you with more laughter than you can almost bear. It’s definitely another triumph for the remarkable people who all are part of the hugely successful, crowd pleasing, sell out houses at the Florida Repertory Theatre and its celebrated producing artistic director, Robert Cacioppo.

It is the multiple Tony Award winner for musical comedy, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” with delightful music by William Finn and a Tony Award for Best Book by Rachel Sheinkin. I second what The New York Times said in a rave review: “[Spelling Bee is] an entirely adorable new musical! Quirky, satirical, riotously funny.” And I say the one you will see at Florida Rep is twice as good as the one in New York.

How can I get away with that? Because this one was directed by Jason Parrish and he has whipped together just the most brilliant smorgasbord of one liners, some of them very current, on-going gags, physical humor, and enough poignancy to make you really care, all delivered by top flight actors with a gigantic flair, who don’t miss a single chance to knock our socks off as we roll in our seats watching it all unfold. Genuine congratulations to you Mr. Parish for what you have done. Of course you picked the right people to play all the roles, three of them Rep Favorites, Brendan Powers, Bruce Warren and Katrina Michaels.

The plot has endless twists and turns, and all of them are hilarious. Basically, it’s six spellers all out to win the championship. They are each unique and ridiculous and loveable in equal proportions. It helps that they are also misfits in some way, and not kids you might really want to sit too close to you in the school cafeteria.

The explosive standing ovation sent all of us out of the theater with the lightest and brightest feelings of being glad we were there to see it all. Get your tickets fast. It promises to be a sell out, and that’s because, this one is just completely cheerfully satisfying. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” plays until April 12. Call the box office at (239) 332-4488 or go to www.floridarep.org for tickets.

Keep live theater live.