You can be a big Lanford Wilson fan and never have seen a production of “Book of Days.” There’s a reason for that.
Wilson has written some astonishingly good plays, including “Fifth of July” and “Talley’s Folly,” but “Book of Days” isn’t one of them.
The play, which is the opening production of the season at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, has some compelling moments and a lot of great characters. It’s about a fictionalized small town called Dublin, Mo. The three most important entities in the town are the church, the cheese factory and the community theater. There’s a mysterious death, and a young woman who is playing Joan of Arc at the community theater takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of it. In doing so, she exposes the hypocrisy of almost everyone and everything in Dublin.
It’s intriguing for a while, but then slumps into a mundane exposé. Wilson’s entire point seems to be that seemingly nice people are really creeps. It’s kind of like “Our Town” meets “Harper Valley PTA.”
But even substandard Lanford Wilson is pretty good, and the play gives us our first look at this year’s crop of second-year acting students at the conservatory. They’re a great bunch. “Book of Days” offers solid roles for all 12 student actors. Some of them seemed a bit stuff at first on opening night, but they all loosened up and gave excellent performances. Among the ones who seem to be especially worth keeping an eye on through this year, and next year when they get to the Asolo Repertory Theatre stage, are Anthony J. Hamilton, Kedren Spencer and Nolan Hennelly.
Details: Through Nov. 20. Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $39 standard, $23 military, $14.50 student. 941-351-8000, asolorep.org.
Actor Justin Long, whom you may know from such films as “Accepted,” “Dodgeball” and “Live Free or Die Hard,” from such TV shows as “Ed,” and such commercials as the Mac vs. PC thing, in which he portrayed a Mac, was at the Manatee Performing Arts Center Wednesday evening. He took in (and reportedly enjoyed) the current Manatee Players production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins.”
Center officials heard through a third party that Long was in the area and was interested in seeing the show. He and some friends watched from the Skybox, the private luxury suite at the center. He posed for some photos with fans in the lobby afterward, but was essentially just another member of the audience, according to center executive director Janene Amick.
“He just wanted to see some good theater,” Amick said.
“Assassins” is about people who have killed or plotted to kill American presidents. It runs through Nov. 13.
The perils of Hermine
The spiffy new parking lot at the Manatee Performing Arts Center was supposed to open this month. If you’ve been past there lately, you may have noticed that it doesn’t look as though that’s going to happen.
You can blame Hurricane Hermine.
Remember Hermine? Back in late August and early September she caused some nervousness and a lot of Weather Channel-watching in the Bradenton area, but she left us mostly unscathed. She did a lot of damage to the East Coast, though.
So how does that affect Manatee Players’ parking lot? Power lines need to be moved before work on the MPAC parking lot can continue, and as it turns out, a lot of workers from Florida Power & Light were deployed to the storm-damaged parts of Florida and the Carolinas to help people get their power back.
Performing arts center officials have been eager to have the new parking lot (across Third Avenue from the center’s front entrance) finished, especially because some patrons have expressed annoyance at inconvenient parking. But they understand that hurricanes and other emergencies demand the power company’s attention. And the parking lot should still end up being finished only four to six weeks late.
“Everything’s been pushed back,” center spokesman Brian Craft said. “I think we’re still shooting for late December or early January.”
Top 10 list
Ken Davenport is a big-deal Broadway producer. He won a Tony Award for producing “Kinky Boots,” and he also produced “Allegiance,” “Spring Awakening” and “The Bridges of Madison County.”
Every year, Davenport releases what he calls his “Broadway Black List.” Despite the name, it’s a great list to be on. It’s his list of the 10 best scripts that have come across his desk in the past year.
Hall has had a couple of plays, including the musical “Life on the Mississippi,” staged in New York, and locally his work has been produced in recent years by Starlite Players in Sarasota and Stageworks in Tampa.