Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Stage

Review: 'I Do! I Do!' takes audience back in time at Stage West

The musical I Do! I Do! is showing its age — and that could be encouraging, rather than distressing.

The 1966 show takes the audience through several phases of a 50-year marriage in just over two hours, including intermission, which makes for some jarringly quick changes in emotions and actions by both husband and wife. But that's the nature of the script, not the fault of the players in Stage West Community Playhouse's nicely done version of the show, thanks to actors Dorothy Ferguson as Agnes and Keith Surplus as Michael and director Kathy Capelle.

Ferguson's beautiful voice is a joy to hear, and her antics during Flaming Agnes are completely charming. Though Surplus' character is difficult to like, thanks to Michael's callous superiority and disdain for women, Surplus does a fine job with the role, playful and lovable at one moment, unbearable at another, though hardly chastened at the end.

I've seen several productions of this show in the half-century since its debut, and, in that time, attitudes toward women and women's issues have drastically changed. Lines that once got chuckles and guffaws now elicit groans of disapproval, and well they should.

For example, a few years into the marriage, when Agnes complains that Michael shuts her out of his work life as a writer and sarcastically asks him if it's because his writing may be "too vulgar for my tender little mind," Michael shoots back that no, it's "too complex" for her simple little mind. (Turns out he writes potboiler romance novels.)

In earlier incarnations, his patient delivery would bring laughs. But in this time of heightened awareness of boorish male behavior, Capelle doesn't soften Surplus' character, and he delivers it with pompous, arrogant superiority, earning an audible grumble from the Stage West audience.

When Michael gleefully sings that It's a Well Known Fact that men of 40 "go to town" while "women go to pot" as he skips up the aisle toward a new, younger, adoring woman, leaving Agnes behind with two kids and a pile of unpaid bills, there's not a discernible shred of sympathy or understanding for him anywhere. Of course, Michael soon shows remorse, and they make up. But his churlish behavior continues, as, even in old age, he blithely orders Agnes to tidy up as he does more important things.

Even so, Surplus' natural charm comes through, helping him avoid (symbolic) rotten tomatoes thrown at him at curtain call.

I Do! I Do! is indeed a series of snapshots in time, and writer Tom Jones could hardly foresee the approaching sea changes in attitudes when he wrote it in 1966. Though there were glimmers back then, they hadn't happened in his show's time frame, so it would have been inauthentic to include them. Indeed, the show must be seen as a period piece, much as Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is. It was true for its time.

And, as done by the Stage West cast and crew, it's an enjoyable night's evening of nostalgia and reminiscence. And gratitude that attitudes are changing for many, even if not for all.

Comments
Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

TAMPA — A lonely and changeable sky illuminates the top of the stage through most of Waitress, running this week at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The neon lettering of Joe’s Diner reflects days and nights that don’t differ en...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

MINISTRY OF JOBSITE: 1984When selecting an adaptation for George Orwell’s 1984 (there have been a few of them), Jobsite Theater had to strike the most controversial one off the list. That version by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan ran for 125 perfor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Review: American Stage hits ‘The Producers’ out of the park

Review: American Stage hits ‘The Producers’ out of the park

ST. PETERSBURG — Without question, Mel Brooks’ The Producers carved a more indelible mark than most of the musicals in the entire genre of throwaway musicals it parodied.The creator of Get Smart and Blazing Saddles not only co-wrote the adaptation of...
Published: 04/23/18
The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Florida Orchestra puts another exclamation point on its 50th season with Verdi’s Requiem, this weekend’s concert series, a major presentation of an iconic work. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem debuted in 1874 but took on a new layer of signif...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

ST. PETERSBURG — In the coming season, Freefall Theatre is rolling out a world premiere, a different take on Christmas, a sharp comedy and a recent work by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage. The theme for the 2018-2019 season, "A Brighter Tomorrow," color...
Published: 04/19/18
Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

HEAD WAITRESS: DESI OAKLEYThe blue collar mother who drives the plot of Waitress never thought she could win a pie-making contest, let alone start a business."She doesn’t even have the capacity to understand that she could do this," said Desi Oakley,...
Published: 04/18/18
American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

ST. PETERSBURG ­— Think early evening, daylight saving version. The earth turning away, light fading in Demens Landing Park — everywhere except the stage, which is trying its best to resurrect midday. "It looks like New York City at nigh...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

BROOKSVILLE — How about a story about two knights who gain their knighthood, lose it, then gain it back, only to lose it again?That was the concept Kyle Marra pitched nearly three years ago to Randi Olsen, founder and creative director for the Live O...
Published: 04/17/18
Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

TAMPA — Tampa made its cigars with indispensable help from Cuban immigrants. Today, 22 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, as defined by the U.S. Census. The Tampa Bay area has increasingly and proudly defined itself as a thriving perfor...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

The murder mystery/thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is loaded with potential. Playwright Peter Colley’s spooky, sometimes creepy, script has lots of surprises, scary moments and a few jokes to break the tension.And the production at Stage West C...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18