Theater Notes: Gripping, unorthodox play at the courageous Lab Theater
Again, if you want to see a play that puts a demand on the audience, a play that confronts things that impact you deep down where you say, “This I believe,” or falls into that pretending-not-to-know-what you-know zone that you accept as reality, go see “ANDORRA” at the Laboratory Theater of Florida.
Located off of Second Street in downtown Fort Myers, the theater has a founder and artistic director, Annette Trossbach, who has the courage to bring us together for that kind of gripping theater.
Now, let’s start with what you will get into when you go. “ANDORRA” is about anti-Semitism and its consequences, but also about racism, poverty, jealousy, greed, lies and the impact of the military advocating war. I assure you, no one falls asleep at “ANDORRA.”
Everything takes place in a country called Andorra, not the real principality between France and Spain, but rather the name of a made-up country typical enough to show that what could happen in any country, period or culture. Maybe even our own. We face current events on stage right where we live.
The central character is a young man called Andri, brilliantly played by Steven Coe. Andri lives with The Teacher (Rob Green), who has the most demanding role in the play and does it with real talent. The Teacher claims that Andri is his adopted son, who he saved from “The Blackshirts.” They are the hostile – presumably anti-Semitic – people from a nearby country. We find out they are threatening to invade Andorra. Because of all of this, everybody believes that Andri is a Jew, and the cause of all the troubles they are facing. He gets scapegoated horrendously, by a Priest, a Medical Person, a Soldier and the Innkeeper, while they repeat over and over, “It wasn’t my fault.”
But we discover that Andri was not “saved” by The Teacher. The plot thickens. He is actually his real son. However, The Teacher does not want to make this public as he is too ashamed to admit that he has an illegitimate son. In the beginning of the play, Andri is also secretly engaged to Barblin, who is The Teacher’s daughter. Needless to say, they do not know that they are brother and sister. All around them is the nerve-racking evidence that Andorra will be attacked.
We begin to really care about what is happening to these three people. There are 10 more people you meet, played by fine Community Theater actors. I always admire Community Theater because it is made up of people who have jobs or school or parenting to do all day, and come to rehearsals at night and on the weekends. I believe deeply in supporting live theater because of theater loving folks like these fine performers.
The other 10 characters form a culture filled with prejudice, hate, guilt, self-esteem and destruction, and a society destined for collapse. The Holocaust runs through the sometimes painful things we see. But see them we must. And hear about them, as well. Moments when the question is asked over and over about and when the metaphorical symbol, “Who threw the stone?” is asked.
This will be one of the most important plays I have seen this season. I urge you to get your tickets fast. I predict a word-of-mouth affirmation will fill the house before the play closes on April 14. Get your tickets at www.laboratorytheaterflorida.com or 239-218-0481. Tell them Sidney Simon of The Islander sent you. It might get you the best seats.