Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Relatively Speaking
Dog Days Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey


Kelly Elizabeth Smith, Wyatt C. McNeil, Julia Gibson,
and David Kortemeier

Photo by Cliff Roles
There is a new group of kids in town, Dog Days Theatre, and they make their entrance with a smashing production of Alan Ayckbourn's first hit, Relatively Speaking. According to notes in the program, Ayckbourn has often "claimed, although never proven, that he is the most performed living English playwright."

Relatively Speaking hovers in the tiny space that separates comedy of manners from farce. Throughout the play the four characters frequently interact with with other without knowing who the other actually is, but it lacks the quick entrances and exits complete with door slamming that would delineate a true farce. No matter, it is very funny from the get go, and as misunderstandings ratchet up the hilarity is pretty much nonstop.

The MVP for this production is, hands down, director Brendan Fox. All four of the actors are giving superb performances, but it is the perfect, crisp rhythms of the entire piece that is its strength. Ginny, played with enormous winsomeness by Kelly Elizabeth Smith, is the central character, a young woman in London's swinging '60s. One of my great pleasures over the past couple of years has been to watch Ms. Smith grow as an actress, first in several Asolo Conservatory Productions, then this season as Alexandra in The Little Foxes and now this. Ginny is currently attached to Greg, played by Wyatt C. McNeil. At first I found Mr. McNeil not strongly masculine in the opening scene, but as things progressed, I realized that he was playing the character as written, with that softer quality that English men seem to have.

After an opening scene set in London, we are transported to the garden of Philip, played by David Kortemeier, and Sheila, played by Julia Gibson. Philip, unbeknownst to his wife, had been the paramour of Ginny, who now wants to go their separate ways, which he does not. To imagine how Ms. Gibson plays the suburban wife, think Hyacinth Bucket from "Keeping Up Appearances" without the hysteria that seems to follow her wherever she goes. Mr. Kortemeier is also wonderful, playing a character who is capable of great frustration. Watching him loose his equilibrium over a missing garden hose is priceless. All four are wonderful and English accents are consistent across the entire play, but it is the chemistry between them that gives the "wow."

Lex Liang's set design is fantastic as it spins from act one scene one's London flat to the suburban garden for the rest of the play. The interludes between the first and second scenes of each act are staged so theatrically that they become completely part of the story. Costumes by David Covach are very appropriate for the time and place, and lighting design by Nick Jones is effective. I had no trouble hearing every word spoken. I don't think there was any amplification in place, so I am going to credit Patricia Delorey's always incredible work as speech and dialect coach, and maybe a nod to Rew Tippin's sound design in case their was a little electronic help. It is wonderful to see the work of properties designer Annette Breazeale, previously known for her work as properties manager for Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and other theaters. Michelle Hart's wig and make-up design is as always, fantastic.

What a way to introduce themselves to the community—Dog Days Theatre's hilarious production of Relatively Speaking will liven up the oh so hot and humid Florida summer. This is the time of year when things are supposed to slow down in these parts, but Sarasota audiences have a tempting treat at the Cook Theatre.

Dog Days Theatre presents Relatively Speaking through July 30, 2017, at the Cook Theater in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org/dogdays.

Cast (in order of appearance):< br>Greg: Wyatt C. McNeil
Ginny: Kelly Elizabeth Smith
Philip: David Kortemeier*
Sheila: Julia Gibson*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association


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