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A good sign for 'Hay Fever': Its cast is having a blast

Caitlin Eason, left, Caroline Jett and Spencer Meyers portray the Bliss family, though their weekend in the country is far from blissful.

Courtesy of Jobsite Theater

Caitlin Eason, left, Caroline Jett and Spencer Meyers portray the Bliss family, though their weekend in the country is far from blissful.

By MARTY CLEAR

Times Correspondent

The Jobsite Theatre staging of Noel Coward's Hay Fever hasn't even opened yet, but already it's making people laugh.

"We're having so much fun with it," said Caroline Jett, who plays the lead role of Judith Bliss. "We're cracking each other up every night."

So the cast members, at least, will be enjoying themselves. And since Hay Fever has been steadily popular in theaters for almost 90 years, it's a pretty safe bet that audiences will have a good time too.

Coward's play is about four members of a self-absorbed family who each invite a guest to spend a weekend at their country home, and then proceed to act so boorishly that they drive their guests away.

"It's a delicious little comedy of bad manners," Jett said. "Not that these people are deliberately bad-mannered, but they're so wrapped up in themselves that they don't even know when they're being rude."

Jett's character, Judith Bliss, is the matriarch of the artistic family, a retired actor who never quite comprehends that her drawing room is not a stage. She's getting ready for a comeback, in one of her signature roles.

But as in many of Coward's plays, which can be considered precursors to the modern sitcom, it's not so much the characters that matter as the wit of Coward's words.

"We've all been in situations where we wish we had clever barbs we could come up with," Jett said. "Well, these people have them."

Most of the cast members are, like Jett, very familiar to local theater audiences in general and Jobsite fans in particular. Spencer Meyers, Caitlin Eason and Owen Robertson play the other members of the Bliss family; Amy Gray, Michael C. McGreevy, Katie Castonguay and Chris Jackson are their guests and Dana Kovar is Clara, Judith's former dresser and now her housekeeper.

The play was first produced in 1925 and it's the earliest of Coward's plays that's still frequently produced.

The Jobsite production, directed by David M. Jenkins, keeps the action set in that period, and in that place (England) and the actors have adopted both the accents and the acting style of the period.

"It's been a real journey to internalize this language and to internalize this style and get to the point where we can relax with it," Jett said. "We're always breaking out laughing when right in front of us someone comes up with a new way of working that style into the character."

Times correspondent Marty Clear can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

. if you go

Hay Fever

Runs through Feb. 3 at the Shimberg Theater in the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Shows are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $28 plus service charge. (813) 229-7827 or strazcenter.org.

A good sign for 'Hay Fever': Its cast is having a blast 01/09/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 7:26pm]
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