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Stage planner: Mini dinner theater, Florida Orchestra Brass Quintet, a comic opera

Florida Orchestra Brass Quintet members include Kenneth Brown, rear left, Dwight Decker and Robert Smith, and William Mickelsen and Andrew Karr.
Florida Orchestra Brass Quintet members include Kenneth Brown, rear left, Dwight Decker and Robert Smith, and William Mickelsen and Andrew Karr.
Published Aug. 25, 2016

MINI DINNER THEATER: LA COTE BASQUE

Dinner and a show. It's not exactly a new idea. People like to eat and be entertained. Now an intimate European restaurant is pairing original one-act plays with dinner, courtesy of a group of community theater players.

At least once a month, Gulfport's La Cote Basque reserves a room for Mary and Company, who perform before, during and after a three-course meal.

"Oh my God, it's fantastic. Everyone loves it," said Carmen Frohne, whose father Ernest Frohne founded the dimly lit continental restaurant in 1972.

Mary Brophy pulled the ad hoc troupe together by producing St. Petersburg City Theatre's Summer Shorts.

"Last year after the performance I was asked to bring my one-acts to La Cote Basque for dinner," Brophy said. The shorts, performed on the third Thursday of each month for most of this year, proved so popular the group soon changed performance days to Wednesday and Thursday.

Five short skits precede the salad, then are sandwiched between the main course and appear again before dessert.

Some were fun, others just silly. If you understand that and go on a whim or to support a novel effort, you should be okay.

"I truly feel people just love to laugh and enjoy themselves," Brophy said. "I do not do anything political or religious, or (with) bad language or sadness."

Three generations of Frohnes still run La Cote Basque, which feels like stepping into 1930s Paris, like that guy on The Twilight Zone who stepped off a train into the past.

Theresa, the founder's wife and Carmen's mother, was working in the kitchen. Duncan Frohne, 23, Carmen's son, waited tables during last week's Wednesday show.

He thinks the one-acts fit into the restaurant's mood like the carrots, green beans and red cabbage you'll find on your plate. "It doesn't seem like much of a risk at all," he said.

The Mary and Company nights offer banquet-style selections: chicken Marsala, wiener schnitzel or flounder Francaise.

Reservations are required. The first one-act starts at 7 p.m. at La Cote Basque Winehouse, 3104 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport. $35. (727)321-6888. lacotebasquewinehouse.com.

THAT TAKES BRASS: FLORIDA ORCHESTRA QUINTET

When they are not rehearsing, members of the Florida Orchestra usually work in some area related to their music. They teach in college classrooms or privately. Some play chamber music. The Florida Orchestra Brass Quintet plays show tunes, medleys, or whatever occurs to them, pleasing audiences for 35 years. The quintet performs Sunday in the Marly Room of St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts.

Principal trombonist Dwight Decker is a founding member, and William Mickelsen, principal tuba, joined the quintet in its early years.

Robert Smith, the principal trumpet player, has been with the orchestra since 1994 and soloed across the country and abroad. Assistant principal trumpet player Kenneth Brown joined the orchestra in 1996 and freelances throughout the Tampa Bay area. Andrew Karr, the assistant principal horn, has performed as a soloist or as principal horn in more than 20 countries. The concert starts at 2 p.m. Sunday at 255 Beach Drive NE. $20, $10 students. (727) 896-2667. mfastpete.org. This item has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier online version of this report listed an inaccurate starting time.

SUI GENERIS: TOM SIVAK

Most of the pieces are in place for an "absurdist chamber opera," Doctor Dilligaff's Baboon, with a read-through Monday at the Palladium.

There's a plot, but before I get to that maybe it would make more sense to talk about the composer. With distinguished help from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tom Sivak has penned eight musicals, which have been performed on stage, television and film. His imagination tends toward the wild and wacky. In 1985 he co-authored Out o' Joint with Ron Falzone and prison inmates, through a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.

Thanks to grants from the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas, Sivak will be on hand to play the piano as actors read parts for Doctor Dilligaff's Baboon. The hourlong opera puts a psychiatrist (Todd Donovan) in a dilemma. Will he fall for his new assistant, Monika, or remain loyal to a life-sized statue of a baboon in his office? For now, this is a staged reading. The Palladium has, however, hinted that a full production could make its way through here in 2017.

The reading starts at 7 p.m. Monday at the Palladium Side Door Cabaret, 253 Fifth Ave. N. Free. (727) 822-3590. mypalladium.org.

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