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At these two Tampa Bay theater productions, it’s all about the chemistry

“Misery” at Jobsite Theater and Freefall’s “Baskerville” feature stars with close relationships.
 
From left, Eric Davis and Matthew McGee in Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" at Freefall Theatre in St. Petersburg through April 23.
From left, Eric Davis and Matthew McGee in Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" at Freefall Theatre in St. Petersburg through April 23. [ STEVEN LE - THEE PHOTO NINJA | Courtesy of Thee Photo Ninja ]
Published March 31, 2023|Updated April 4, 2023

Husband and wife. Actor and director. They’re likely pairings, though it’s not often that they also perform in a production as co-stars. But that is the case in two local shows currently running: “Misery” at Tampa’s Jobsite Theater and “Baskerville — A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” at Freefall Theatre in St. Petersburg.

‘Baskerville’

Freefall Theatre’s artistic director Eric Davis and actor Matthew McGee (who is also the company’s community outreach director) are a duo that people often associate with each other, yet surprisingly, they’ve never performed together.

That has changed with the arrival of “Baskerville — A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” the St. Petersburg theater’s current production.

“I always knew I wanted to be Dr. Watson, especially opposite him, because with the exciting things Eric does at Freefall, I feel like I’m along for the ride, just like Watson,” McGee said.

McGee plays the Dr. Watson to Davis’ Holmes. He said Davis was reluctant to play the iconic role in addition to directing.

From left, Kelly Pekar, Eric Davis, Robert Teasdale and Matthew McGee in Freefall Theatre's production of Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," which runs through April 23 in St. Petersburg.
From left, Kelly Pekar, Eric Davis, Robert Teasdale and Matthew McGee in Freefall Theatre's production of Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," which runs through April 23 in St. Petersburg. [ STEVEN LE - THEE PHOTO NINJA | Courtesy of Thee Photo Ninja ]

The duo fall into their parts as naturally as any iconic pair who have played them. McGee said he thinks the chemistry works because the roles highlight what each actor does well.

“There’s a line in the show where I say, ‘the greatest man I’ve ever known’ and that’s the way I feel a lot about Eric and the years we’ve spent doing theater together,” he said.

In the comedy-mystery, Holmes and Watson take on the case of “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Three other actors also appear: Kelly Pekar, James Putnam and Robert Teasdale, who were actually last-minute replacements to the cast. You wouldn’t know: They deftly and hilariously play multiple roles alongside the two stars.

Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville — A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.” Runs through April 23. $25-$45. Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.

‘Misery’

David Jenkins and Summer Bohnenkamp star in Jobite Theater's production of "Misery" in Tampa through April 9, 2023.
David Jenkins and Summer Bohnenkamp star in Jobite Theater's production of "Misery" in Tampa through April 9, 2023. [ Stage Photography of Tampa ]

Jobsite Theater’s producing artistic director David M. Jenkins and his wife, Summer Bohnenkamp, take on the iconic roles in this play based on Stephen King’s terrifying novel. Adapted by William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay for the movie starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, this production stars Jenkins as romance novelist Paul Sheldon and Bohnenkamp as Annie Wilkes, Sheldon’s deranged “number one fan.”

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Acting opposite each other in the same production doesn’t happen often for Jenkins and Bohnenkamp. Although they met while acting in a play together, their characters haven’t interacted on most of the shows they’ve done. Plus, Bohnenkamp hasn’t been on stage in about eight years: She’s the chief programming and marketing officer at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. (Jobsite is the resident theater company of The Straz.)

But you’d never guess any of this based on their dynamic performances.

In the play, which is directed by Paul Potenza, Annie holds Paul captive in the middle of nowhere after a debilitating car accident and forces him to write another novel in his “Misery” series. Bohnenkamp brings to life the sadistic and demented characteristics of Annie, which she gleaned not only from the book and Bates’ performance in the movie, but also from Annie’s backstory in the Hulu series “Castle Rock.”

Because the play is mostly the two of them, except for the occasional appearance of Sheriff Buster (played by Josh Goff), it’s fairly exhaustive, Jenkins said.

But he and Bohnenkamp are enjoying it. He said people always ask if working together causes friction between them.

“The truth is, absolutely not,” he said. “I know that’s a really boring story. But we don’t bring that stuff home.”

Bohnenkamp was performing with a fractured wrist the night we saw the production, but still managed to wield a sledgehammer with menace. She owns this role.

And as Paul, Jenkins is the sophisticated author who must outsmart Annie. It’s an intensely physical performance, and you feel his pain.

Summer Bohnenkamp and David Jenkins star in Jobsite Theater's production of "Misery" in Tampa through April 9, 2023.
Summer Bohnenkamp and David Jenkins star in Jobsite Theater's production of "Misery" in Tampa through April 9, 2023. [ Stage Photography of Tampa ]

“Misery” runs through April 9. $34.50-$59.50. David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N Macinnes Place, Tampa. 813-229-7827. jobsitetheater.org.