Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Alabama Story
Florida Studio Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's recent review of Nora


(front) Andy Prosky, Jean Tafler, Danny Bernardy; (rear) Kevin Cutts
Photo by Matthew Holler, provided by FST
I love Florida Studio Theatre because they bypass the plays that every other theater of comparable size is producing, favoring newer thought-provoking fare. So it is with Alabama Story by Kenneth Jones, based on a true story set in Alabama 1959 when a book entitled "The Rabbit's Wedding" stirred up a hornet's nest of hatred because one of the rabbits was white and the other black. The play asks the audience to re-examine racism, both past and present. The play also adds a side story about two childhood friends who re-connect around this time, a white woman and a black man. This story is only loosely connected to our main narrative and while it adds dimension to the play, it often feels like a totally separate story, one that might be comfortable inhabiting its own play.

Director Kate Alexander gets strong performances from her excellent cast. Jean Tafler plays librarian Emily Wheelock Reed, who unwaveringly defends this particular book and access to books as knowledge for all. Andy Prosky as Senator E.W. Higgins is her nemesis, who sees propaganda against the Southern way in the book and wants it gone. Prosky's performance shows us both the ugly side of segregation as well as the Southern courtliness. Danny Bernardy plays Emily's assistant Thomas Franklin and commands the stage when Thomas opens up to her about his private life as his father's caretaker. Kevin Cutts is warm and welcoming as our narrator and the book's author and illustrator, Garth Williams. Rachel Moulton as Lily Whitfield and Chris White as Joshua Moore are the two childhood friends who run into each other 20 years later.

Kate Alexander, Associate Director of FST, paces the complex production well, always maintaining audience interest. The scenic designs of Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay define the general Southern setting as well as specific locations, such as the library and a bench in front of a park. Sara Hinkley's costumes perfectly establish the period and are attractive to the eye. Excellent lighting design by Robert Perry helps focus the action.

Alabama Story represents Florida Studio Theatre at its finest, a play that asks audiences to think about an important subject, well acted and well produced.

Florida Studio Theatre presents Alabama Story through May 28, 2016, at the Gompertz Theater 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.

Cast (in alphabetical order):Thomas Franklin: Danny Bernardy*
Garth Williams: Kevin Cutts*
Lily whitfield: Rachel Moulton*
Senator E.W. Higgins: Andy Prosky*
Emily Wheelock Reed: Jean Tafler*
Joshua Moore: Chris White*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association

Directed by Kate Alexander
Scenic Designers: Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay
Costume Designer: Sara Hinkley
Lighting Designer: Robert Perry
Diversity Consultant: Helen Boulware Moore, Ph.D.
Stage Manager: Roy Johns*


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