Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

My Funny Valentine
The Starlite Players
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Carolyn Zaput, Ryan Kimball Fitts, and Bonnie Schiavone
Photo by Don Walker
After a month's hiatus to allow everyone to thoroughly enjoy their holidays, The Starlite Players returns with a lighthearted look ahead to Valentine's Day called My Funny Valentine. The evening consists of four short plays looking at love from different angles. As Starlite Players has continued to gain traction, the productions keep getting better, attracting some of the finest local performers.

The evening begins with 1-900-Sex Date by Julian Olf, directed by James Thaggard. Rafael Petlock plays Milton who, after some misgivings, calls a 1-900 sex line where he talks to Ronnie, played by Jamie Lee Butrum. Over 17 minutes we watch a connection develop between these two. Ms. Butrum distractedly folds a laundry basket full of clothes and then attends to other menial chores, but still connects with what her client is saying and feeling. They show excellent chemistry together which is especially good because they also play together in the last play.

Next up is Connubial Bliss by Producing Director Jo Morello and spouse Jack Gilhooley. She claims this play is the only thing they ever finished together. It is perhaps a touch autobiographical, and more than a touch laugh out loud funny. I had seen this play, tucked in amongst an evening of plays by these authors last year, and found it underwhelming, but here it is the high point of a quite funny evening. Carolyn Zaput is brassy as Leslie, a theatrical agent representing a married couple, playwrights who are contemplating a personal and professional split. Ryan Kimball Fitts plays Charlie, who is exasperated by the demands of Marie, played by Bonnie Schiavone, while she is tired of doing most of the heavy lifting while receiving second billing, and that only under her married name. She wants to be Marie Rossini again. Directed by Bob Trisolini, the dialogue crackles and audience laughter was hearty and frequent.

After intermission comes Valentine's Day, by Richard J. Budin and directed by Tim Guerrieri. Here Sharon, played by Lauren Ward, returns home to find boyfriend Harold, played by David Downer, hiding in her bushes, naked. She tries to lure him out, which he persistently resists, as she comes to realize the extent of his predicament. The play is very short, perhaps 10 minutes. Good performances make this slight piece pleasurable.

Last up is TGIF, by Michael E. Wolfson and directed by James Thaggard. Rafael Petlock plays Man, a professional type, sitting at a bar. Woman, played by Jamie Lee Butrum, approaches, asks if she can sit down, and then gets a bit aggressive, sexually. Man tries to be stand offish, Woman continues to pursue until a surprise ending, which I will not spoil. Again, Mr. Petlock and Ms. Butrum show great chemistry, very necessary in successfully pulling off this quite interesting play.

It is wonderful to see actors and actresses I have admired at other venues in such an intimate setting. I admired Mr. Petlock as Brick earlier this season in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Ms. Zaput has been seen all over the map, including seven seasons at Asolo Rep, Mr. Downer in Spamalot at Manatee Players, and on and on. Sometimes actors blend into larger productions until I see them more center stage and then I am on the lookout for them.

My Funny Valentine provides a fine showcase for actors and directors and a fun evening for audiences.

My Funny Valentine ran through January 24, 2016, presented by The Starlite Players at The Starlite Room, 1001 Cocoanut Avenue, Sarasota, FL. For more information, visit

Producing Artistic Director: Jo Morello
Technical Director: steve Patmagrian
Stage Manager: Leona Collesano
Production Coordinator: Jamie Lee Butrum
Sound Designer: Dorian Boyd
Webmaster, Photographer: Don Walker
Artistic Assistant: Rafael Petlock
House Managers: Carline Ash, Jack gilhooley
Others in Various AD HOC Capacities: Kick Pell, Marie Kilker, peg Pluto and the staff of the Starlite Room.

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