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Center Stage: Florida Rep, Theatre Conspiracy providing great live theater

By Staff | Mar 5, 2019

Marsha Wagner

You better catch “Hay Fever,” currently playing the Florida Repertory Theatre until March 9.

The Noel Coward 1927 “drawing room” comedy of manners is a classic example of the genre. Having said that, if you are not turned on by this high-toned fast-paced “Brit Skits” routines, as seen on the TV show “Fawlty Towers” or Dame Edna’s version of upper crust English doings, then this might not be your cup of tea.

Nevertheless, this is a first-class production of the category of drawing room comedy – starting with a first-class set design by Dennis Maulden, which is the definitive version of an English drawing room set in the country estate in Cookham in the year 1927. The crisp, fast-paced dialogue and repartee, directed by Mark Shanahan, was spot on. I simply must applaud the plus-perfect period costumes by Jacquelyn Loy. Simply put, Deevine Darlings!

But, truthfully, it’s the consummate acting abilities by the brilliant cast of “mummers” that’s first, last and always what makes this Florida Rep’s version of “Hay Fever” – simply, Maa-rvelous!

What a cast of first-rate Equity Actors, they deserve my acknowledgement in alphabetical order: Seth Andrew Bridges, Rachel Burttram, Kate Levy, Jake Murphy, Brendon Powers, Lesley Staples, Olivia Stevens and Matt Sullivan. Add to that Sydney Torres, a recent graduate from Emerson College who is making her auspicious Florida Rep debut and is the only non-Equity member in the production.

Furthermore, I would advise any acting student or avocational actors to view and learn what skills are needed to perform such seemingly simple, comic characters. Bravo, actors and production staff for showing us what expertise it takes to make a razor-thin plot, fast-paced stilted dialogue into a terrific evening of first-class professional theater.

Oh! While I still have your attention, there is a special offer for Sanibel-Captiva residents to a matinee performance consisting of lunch at the Twisted Vine Bistro – includes lunch, tip, tax and glass of wine – plus a 2 p.m. performance of “Hay Fever” for the incredible price of $65. Space is limited, so don’t delay; phone 239-332-4488, now!

Wait, there’s more on the theater scene in beautiful downtown Fort Myers.

Bill Taylor’s Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts is celebrating another August Wilson play, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” from March 1-17. This exceptional production has just followed an equally successful, brilliantly acted gender-bender play titled “Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood.” Once again, the creative direction by Rachael Endrizzi, and the equally fine performances given by some of our most talented Community Theater actresses saved the day. Gerri Benzing, Lauren Drexler, Karen Goldberg, Kathy Grey, Anna Grilli, Joann Haley and June Koc played Robin Hood’s Merry Men or in some cases the Merry Men’s women. Plus, accolades to the three guys who played gents: Grant Cothren, Patrick Day and Justin Larsche. Everybody is this comedy deserved a well-earned round of applause.

What can I say? Our theater scene is thriving, and all of us are fortunate to have so much talent and diversity to choose from in our own backyard. I no longer feel the need to go to New York City and Broadway or Off Broadway to see great live theater when we have it happening right here.

OK, get it together and support the “best of the best” by phoning the Theatre Conspiracy at 239-939-2787 or Florida Rep at 239-332-4488 and reserve your seats for some great live theater. Remind ’em when you phone, Marsha sent you!