Theater Notes: Four plays in four days
How lucky can I get? To see four plays in four days. I hope you envy me a little. Theater has been important to me all my life. I was in eight shows in college. I wrote one-act plays and sketches for the Theater Club. And when I became a teacher, I directed senior plays and acted in faculty productions in two schools.
But, the biggest memory is back in the day and Broadway. When I lived year-round in Hadley, Massachusetts, twice a year, my wife and I would drive to New York and see six plays. Once on the Labor Day weekend (when the city was almost deserted) and Easter weekend (when again the city was quiet). Now it took some planning. We’d show up for Friday night with a ticket we had bought weeks before. Dustin Hoffman, front row, for “Death of a Salesman.” Then Saturday you get in line at TKS and get a matinee. After that, back in line for two more in the Village. One play at 7 p.m. and the second at 10 p.m. On Sunday a matinee on the West Side, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” and before we head home, one last one at 7:30 p.m. curtain up around 70th Street.
Thanks for reading this far. I would love to hear your own experience with theater. Well now, what was I lucky enough to see in the Fort Myers and Naples area? Here are the four of them. I will just say a few words about each, and urge you to go see them before they close.
– “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” at the Florida Rep’s Studio Theater
“Tenderly,” clearly, was my favorite of the four plays. It is so definitely a “must see” you must drop everything and try to get a ticket. They are selling out almost every performance. But, fortunately it runs until Feb. 24. There are two actors, who dazzle in every moment of the play. Susan Haefner gives us almost 20 songs from the great repertory she was part of and they are flawless. A similar miracle is Michael Marotta, who we first meet as her doctor. Not quite sure how he did it but he also plays – still wearing his brown suit – her mother, her husband, her second husband, and more. It is tour de force. The best of the season. Go, you will not regret it one moment. But, buy your ticket fast at 239-332 4488.
– “The Agitators” at the Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts
“The Agitators” is so worth seeing. It’s an amazing two-character play. Derek Lively plays Frederick Douglas. Dena Galyean brings Susan B. Anthony to life. You are living in the times when she is fighting for women’s rights, and he through his writing and speeches, became the leading abolitionist before and after the Civil War. He fought for the rights of freed slaves. It was an honor to sit there and watch what they had to deal with as they relentlessly pursued their dreams. They were often friends, and at times combatants. The play is definitely relevant to our society today. Racism still thrives, and women are still too often deprived of full dignity and rights. Sad for you, it closed Jan. 27. The good news is that they will open with a new play that has great promise, “Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood.” Bill Taylor, director of Theatre Conspiracy, delivers diverse and exciting theater for all of Southwest Florida audiences. I urge you to get your tickets fast at 239-939-2787.
– “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at The Laboratory Theater of Florida
Annette Trossbach, the artistic director of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” is in my opinion the bravest and most daring person in the business here. It takes her drive and persistence to bring us Hedwig, a man dressed as a woman, and her shrewd direction takes him on his journey backed up by the loudest rock ‘n’ roll band that makes the rafters sing way out there on Second Street and Woodford. PJ McCready has an exhausting role, but he does it. He gets some support from Misha Ritter Polomsky, who plays Yizhak. And oh can that Yizhak sing the highest notes of the evening. There is a tender ending to the play. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the ones who dig it will be well rewarded. Get your tickets before it closes on Feb. 3. I’m already eager for the next production, “And The Winner Is …” by Mitch Albom. Contact the box office at 239-218-0481.
– “The Revolutionists” at the Gulfshore Playhouse
“The Revolutionists” is a major production at the Gulfshore Playhouse, run by Artistic Director Kristen Courey. There are four Equity actresses she has brought up from New York and that quality illuminates the stage. Courey directs it artfully. Lauren Gundersen, the playwright, is the most produced living playwright in America. Her brilliance shines. She writes about the time of the great French Revolution, 1789 until 1794. Four young woman, from different social places face the problem. The dialogue is exiting and witty and remarkably relevant to the hypocrisy we are witnessing coming out of Washington today. I particularly enjoyed Marina Shay, who played Marie Antoinette, and Angela Janas, who played Charlotte – the writer – who suffers for disappointing the men in command. The other two women include Dria Brown, who played Marianne, a woman who fought to free Haiti at the personal risk of her life and the lives of her family members. The dangers were real but she continued to fight. Finally, the fiercest wildest fighter for change was Shannon Marie Sullivan as Olympe. It’s well worth the run down to Naples. Just to be in the presence of all the people who believe so deeply in theater, providing summer programs for our kids, and dozens of other events open to the public. Get yourself to Naples and experience what Gulfshore Playhouse stands for. The play runs only until Feb. 3, so move fast. Or plan to come to the next production, “In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play,” which runs Feb. 16 to March 10. Call 866-811-4111.
There you have my four plays in four days. I hope you are moved to get out and see one or all of them. I believe we have some obligation to keep life theater alive here in Southwest Florida. Buy some tickets and enjoy it, every moment, and every standing ovation.