THAWED OUT:THE ICEMAN COMETH
The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O'Neill's desperation psychodrama about the lies drunks tell themselves, might be one of theater's treasures. It's been revived three times on Broadway since its 1946 debut, but never for longer than three months.
A running time of more than four hours might have something to do that. Tampa Repertory Theatre is closing its fifth season with the play, which opens tonight.
"Nobody does it because it's too damn hard," said Ned Averill-Snell, who plays Hickey, the bringer of therapeutic pain the epic drama uncovers in each of its 19 characters.
Tampa Rep's artistic director C. David Frankel, who is also directing this show, describes Iceman as "the play everyone has heard of but few have seen." But companies keep trying.
The appeal, and what makes Iceman's length less daunting, lies in the bite-sized stories of the barflies whose lives Hickey, a traveling salesman who has quit drinking, lays bare, Averill-Snell said. All have reasons to wind up on those bar stools and dreams they are sure to realize once they get back on their feet.
"It's not really the story of Hickey but about the others," Averill-Snell said. "It's really the story of these people in the bar, and how they react to someone who says he has come to help them, and on the other hand is taking away their hopes and dreams that they cling to to keep themselves alive."
The play consists of four acts, with three 10-minute intermissions.
The Iceman Cometh starts at 7 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at the University of South Florida's Studio 120, 3837 USF Holly Drive, Tampa. It runs through July 3. $20, $15 seniors, students or military. tamparep.org.
DEEP DISH PIAZZA: FREEFALL
Freefall Theatre opens its next to last show of the season with the romantic (but not sappy) musical The Light in the Piazza. The show earned 11 Tony nominations in 2005, winning six (including for score and orchestration). Set in the summer of 1953, the premise of a mother taking her teenage daughter to Florence seems innocent enough.
Factor in an injury in the daughter's past, which has left her with the mind of a child, and dilemmas crop up for everyone involved in her life. Clara's father had recommended she be institutionalized. Her mother, Margaret, disagrees, but finds her philosophy of more robust experiences for her daughter tested during the trip.
Kelly Pekar and Nick Lerew play Clara and Fabrizio, an Italian man who falls in love with her. The actors are nearing the conclusion of a year as artistic associates at Freefall, a kind of internship program in which both have done some heavy lifting in a variety of roles.
Melissa Minyard, who recently wrapped up the Broadway run of Les Misérables as Cosette, plays Margaret, the mother. The cast also includes Jennifer Byrne, Stephan James Jones, Robert Teasdale, Elizabeth Sackett, Joshua Romero and Rand Smith.
The show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. It runs through July 17 at Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Previews start at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. $20-$48. (727) 498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.
SAVE A SEAT: STRAZ SEASON
If you're flirting with season tickets for touring Broadway shows, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts wants to make that choice a little tougher to resist. The center on Saturday hosts "Test Drive a Seat," a chance to check out available seats and imagine yourself in them. (Seats still open are marked with a checkered flag.) The 2016-17 season opens with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Nov. 8-13). For more on the Straz season, see tbtim.es/wom. Test Drive a Seat runs 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Straz Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.