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Review: miR Theater’s ‘Jazz/Reade’

miR Theater's "Jazz/Reade"

miR Theater’s “Jazz/Reade”


Going to the newly formed miR Theater is turning into quite a refreshing adventure into the unusual side of the arts. And I like it. They promise “unusual pieces in unusual places” and so far that’s been the case.

Their first production, “Cereus Moonlight,” brought us into the world of the old Indian River and included puppets and some pretty wild staging.

Their second and current production, “Jazz/Reade,” although quirky and beguiling, comes with a caveat: Skip any meal or drink which you know will compel you to visit to the rest room within two hours.

Upon arriving at the current production’s venue, the Thompson House, a tiny building sitting at the edge of Anderson Park in Rockledge, I asked for the ladies room. What I was told was the stuff of nightmares: “It’s onstage.”

Oh my. Memories of gutsy, vulnerability-inducing ‘Method Acting’ exercises bubbled to the top of my mind, and I immediately knew that Brevard audiences were not ready for that.

“No, no,” designer Joseph Lark-Riley said, pointing. “It’s there.”

I was relieved to see that the bathroom was upstage, behind a door. At least there was that. After a brief visit across the tiny acting area and into the bathroom to “powder my nose,” I slunk back to my seat knowing that all eyes must have been on me. A moment later, director Elizabeth Lark-Riley walked onto the stage and advised the sold out “house” of 20 or so that if they had to go, they better go now.

One more brave soul ventured forth. Upon his slinking return, the play was ready to start.

The stage, if I may call it that, is so small it makes 93-seat Melbourne Civic Theatre seem cavernous. About 20 chairs are nestled in two rows against the south wall of a room in which you become voyeur into the relationship between best friends Jazz and Reade.

Jazz (an impassioned Ben Cox) is a flighty actor who thrives on international travel. Reade (the talented Aurelia Rose, where the heck has she been?) is an elementary school teacher hopelessly in love with Jazz. However, Jazz is interested only in friendship and Reade is too insecure to tell him her real feelings.

Harboring a secret love for a best friend is a common theme in life and art. Here, though, Gonnsen brings some quirky conceits to the stage, beginning with a mannequin that turns into Jazz’s alter ego and counsels Reade on how to win Jazz’s heart.

Like they did in “Cereus Moonlight,” Mr. and Mrs. Lark-Riley employ unexpected creative touches. Here, they shift settings from “real time” to “fantasy time” — lights flash, and music plays, provided by a cellist sitting on stage in front of a large swath of black fabric.

We get involved with Reade, wanting her to get what she wants. The characters and their portrayal keep our interest throughout. Gonnsen’s play has some real potential, but the naturalist dialogue needs to be tightened and peppered up to fit with the pace and style of the play’s off-beat concept. That would keep Gonnsen’s play sprightly in content and form.

Those of adventurous theatrical spirits should enjoy it. (Just go potty before you get there.)

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Jazz/Reade” runs through Sunday at the Thompson House in Anderson Park, 1220 Pluckebaum Drive, Rockledge. It performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and seniors, and $18 for teachers. Call 321-890-5110 or visit madeinrockledge.org. Send a Tweet to @mirtheater