By PAM HARBAUGH
Oh…I’m definitely going to this one.
It’s “Hurricane Helga” created and produced by the South Beach Players. And if there’s a more enthusiastic, nuttier bunch of can-do theater people around here, please let me know who they are.
And, they’re pretty damn dauntless as well. Just two and a half weeks before this original full length absurdist comedy was supposed to open in a dining room at Sebastian Beach Inn, word came that SBI was closing. That sent directors Jeanine Mjoseth and Donna Roberts scrambling to find a new venue for a cast portraying characters including Jim Cantore, Elon Musk, a dog and the hurricane herself.
Enter a spot Mjoseth calls a “jewel” – the banquet hall of the BG Surfside Grill & Adventures, in Sebastian Inlet State Park. “Hurricane Helga” is set to open there Monday (Nov. 5).
“It’s beautiful, with a wraparound deck overlooking the lagoon and the ocean,” she said.
And, she said, the management has been warm, welcoming and most accommodating to the small production company.
Michelle Saia, the state park concessions operations manager, had learned about the fledgling organization’s plight through a catering client. She did a little research on the organization and invited Mjoseth to come see the banquet hall.
“She saw the room and told me her situation,” Saia said. “I felt sorry for her. She’s a part of the community, so why not help out our fellow neighbor.”
The whole experience has been rather symbolic of the expressionistic play itself.
“Hurricane Helga” is set in a beachside real estate office/bait shop where an unlikely group of people hunker down in anticipation of Hurricane Helga’s arrival.
By the end of the first act, the hurricane arrives and is played by Susan Simoes.
“She is the personification of the hurricane,” Mjoseth said. “Her goal is to annihilate mankind. She starts out hungry, eats sand and palm trees. Throws things on the floor, pushes tables around. She’s a mess and going to make everything a mess. Then she has a flirtation with Jim Cantore.”
Cantore, The Weather Channels’ iconic on air personality, is played by Tom Gale. Other characters include Elon Musk, played by Steve Hilmy and Mr. Puddles, a designer dog played by Noreen Williams.
“I have a strong love of the avant garde, magical realism, Dadaism,” said Mjoseth, a former lady wrestler.
The play, written by Clark Semmes, was conceived after a round table meeting with Melbourne Beach residents telling their own hurricane stories.
Although dramatic in nature, the play is designed to make people laugh, especially when it comes to makeshift hurricane toilets and the swath of Café Bustelo coffee bricks that famously washed upon South Brevard beaches.
Mjoseth expects the show to sell out. If there is enough interest, the group may remount it after Thanksgiving.
“I think the play will be a huge hit,” Saia said. “Everyone who sees the play will get a chance to see how beautiful a venue it is. I look forward to future business with (Mjoseth).”
However, asked if that meant she’d ever step foot on the stage herself, Saia let out a laugh.
“On stage? Oh gosh no. That’s where I draw the line. I will do anything else for her except that.”
SIDE O’ GRITS: The South Beach Players will present “Hurricane Helga” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14 at BG Surfside Grill & Adventures in Sebastian Inlet State Park, 9700 S. Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL. A full bar and dinner will be available starting at 5 p.m. No service during the show. Tickets are $10 which includes admission to the park. A portion of the proceeds will go to charities supporting victims of Hurricane Michael. Tickets are on sale for $10 at Melbourne Beach Properties at 6680 A1A (near the flashing light in Floridana Beach). For ticket information, call Barbara Van Dam at 321-727-1404.
This is an edited version of a story running in the Melbourne Beachsider.