A month ago I headed to Tallahassee to see the play Art by Yasmina Reza. Why would I drive 4 hours to see that play you ask, because it starred my son, a theatre major at Florida State University. I was unfamiliar with the play but found out that it won the Tony in 1998 for best play. Of course I'm a little prejudiced but I did enjoy the production. The story centers around three friends and the tension that erupts when one buys a piece of art consisting of a white canvas.
A few weeks later it was time for the 8 o'clock theatre production of Bye, Bye Birdie. I've had season tickets with three of my friends for about 7 or 8 years now and the productions are usually quite good. The shows are staged at the Largo Cultural Center and the audience tends to the "silver" side. The musicals are generally more popular with this crowd. I had seen the 1995 TV version of Bye Bye Birdie and the wonderful Mad Men episode where Sal tries to recreate Ann-Margret's performance for "Patio Cola." Back to 8 o'clock....the production was up to the usual standard with the exception of the decision to cast Trey Ryan as Conrad Birdie...WRONG!! Now I realize that community theatre is limited by the talent that auditions, but there had to be someone, anyone, who would have made a better choice for Conrad. Ryan has been in many 8 o'clock productions and has been perfect when he is playing characters such as Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast or Jack Manningham in Gaslight. But to cast him as a teen idol? Not so much.
The culmination of the month was definitely the Jobsite Theatre's production of Yellowman. This, for me, is what theatre is all about. Jim Wicker and Fanni Green gave spectacular performances as they deal with the prejudices of skin color within their black, South Carolina community. Wicker and Green portrayed not only their characters at several ages but their own parents and grandparents. The intimate setting reinforced the tension and both actors give brutally honest and powerful performances. The final scenes are gripping in both intensity and desperation as we see the unraveling of promise. Go! Experience it while you still can.