2012-10-18 / Arts & Entertainment News

Gulfshore Playhouse opens the season with two by Reza

BY GLENN MILLER Florida Weekly Correspondent

Scott Greer, Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, Laura Faye Smith and Brit Whittle in “God of Carnage.” 
COURTESY PHOTO Scott Greer, Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, Laura Faye Smith and Brit Whittle in “God of Carnage.” COURTESY PHOTO A pinch of Oscar Wilde. Two dashes of Yasmina Reza. Generous portions of Tony Award winners. Four of them. Six plays in all.

That, very quickly, is the menu for Gulfshore

Playhouse’s seventh season, which opens at The Norris Center on Saturday, Oct. 20, with Ms. Reza’s two Tony Award winners, “Art” and “God of Carnage” — both on the same day, with time enough between to step out, grab dinner and come back for the next show. “Art” will begin at 4 p.m. and “Carnage” at 8 p.m. every Saturday through Nov. 18. The two shows will be performed in repertory Tuesday- Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons through the run.

“These are remarkable, wonderful, hilarious, thought-provoking plays,” Kristen Coury, Gulfshore Playhouse’s founding producing artistic director, says about the season’s openers. She sits in a conference room at The Norris Center, steps away from the stage in one direction and her office in another, and reflects on how far the company has come in a few short years.

“It was just me, myself and I,” she says about the company’s early days, when she ran things out of her home office and staged performances at Gulf Coast High School. “Nothing got done unless I personally did it,” she adds. “I was up all night doing whatever needed to be done.

“I could do only two plays a year.”

Now, she has help — “a cast of thousands,” she laughs.

Well, not quite thousands, but a staff of 16.

She recently hired Cody Nickell as artistic associate. He directs “God of Carnage” and acts in “Art.” He’ll also perform in “The Whipping Man,” a Civil War era drama that opens March 24.

With the new season, Ms. Coury believes Gulfshore Playhouse is once again offering the type of professional theater that has fueled its growth.

Season at a glance

Ms. Reza’s “Art” is set in Paris and tells the story of three friends, one of whom, Serge, pays a lot of money for a large white painting. Mr. Nickell, who is Marc in the production, says his character can’t believe his friend shelled out an enormous sum for what Marc views as little more than a white piece of canvas.

“Marc hates the white painting, loathes the white painting,” Mr. Nickell says.

Why does Marc hate it so much?

“I think he doesn’t know why he has such a visceral reaction to it,” Mr. Nickell says.

The American version of “God of Carnage” is set in Brooklyn. The story centers on two sets of parents whose children get in a playground spat. When the adults meet to discuss the incident, “All hell breaks out,” Ms. Coury says.

Third up in the season will be “I Am My Own Wife.” The title might sound like a light-hearted spoof, but the play is anything but. It’s the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German man, and his astounding story of survival.

He somehow survived both the Nazi regime and the communist dictatorship that ruled what was then East Germany in the decades following World War II. That’s not all. He was a cross-dressing museum director and antiquarian who was born Lothar Berfelde.

The season’s fourth show is that perennial Oscar Wilde favorite from the 1890s, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” It still works and is still funny all these years later.

Up next, after one of the most enduring comedies in theater history, Gulfshore Playhouse presents “The Whipping Man,” a Matthew Lopez play set in 1865. The story revolves around a Jewish Confederate soldier and slave-owner who returns home to Richmond, Va., after the war. His two grown slaves, who were raised Jewish, are now freedmen. It’s Passover — and a time of huge adjustment for both the former master and the former slaves. Together, they have a Seder dinner to mark the holiday.

A New York Times review noted of Mr. Lopez: “We are in the hands of a playwright who wants to mess with our viscera.”

Ms. Coury attended a performance of the play at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, where Mr. Nickell played the slave owner. He will reprise that role in “The Whipping Man” at Gulfshore Playhouse.

The 2012-13 season also marks the first that Gulfshore Playhouse has had a working relationship with the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The season’s last show, “Master Class,” will be staged in the Daniels Pavilion at the Phil. ¦

Gulfshore Playhouse

>> What: Seventh season
Oct. 20-Nov. 18, “Art” and “God of Carnage,” in repertory
Jan. 18-Feb. 3, “I Am My Own Wife”
Feb. 15-March 3, “The Importance of Being
March 15-30, “The Whipping Man”
April 5-21, “Master Class”
>> Where: First five shows at The Norris
Center; final show in the Daniels Pavilion at
the Philharmonic Center for the Arts
>> Tickets: $40, $15 for students
>> Info: 261-7529 or www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org

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