Sunday, February 24, 2013
Walking down Plant Street in Winter Garden, I was surprised to find a Dixieland Band playing in the central gazebo. A few older couples sat in folding chairs watching. I didn't have enough time to do a sketch, so I kept going. At the Garden Theatre, I asked Sherri Cox, the front house manager, a huge favor because I wanted to sketch the stage from the second floor lighting booth. She was wonderful and made the arrangements. I just had to wait till it was closer to curtain time before she guided me up. I watched everyone enter the theater. It was an older crowd. Some of the men might have served in WWII themselves. Upstairs, I was seated on a tall stool next to a huge black metal spot light and some device that looked like it catches sound waves. This was the first time I saw Biloxi Blues and it was a treat.
Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play, Biloxi Blues is the semi-autobiographical comedy-drama by Neil Simon and the second in the trilogy which includes Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound. Biloxi Blues follows the story of Eugene Jerome as a young army recruit going through basic training during World War II and the harsh lessons he must face while stationed at a boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi. Antisemitism among the recruits was a recurring theme throughout the play which is ironic since America was at war with the Germans who were exterminating Jews.
The play is directed by award winning-playwright and acclaimed director Rob Anderson. This is Anderson's directorial debut with both the Garden Theatre and Beth Marshall Presents. The role of Epstein will be played by C.K. Anderson, the son of Rob Anderson. C.K. starred in the lead role of the Beth Marshall Presents production of The Diviners last season at just 14 years of age. I must say that the young actor did an amazing job playing Epstein, who questioned the reasoning behind every training method used by the Drill Sargent Toomey, played by Tyler Cravens.
Towards the end of the second act, I heard torrential rain pounding on theatre's roof. Maybe I noticed it more than the audience below since my ears were so close to the ceiling. It distracted me from the romance blossoming between Eugene, Carl Krickmire, and Daisy, Julie Snyder, on stage and I wondered how I would get back to my car without the sketch getting soaked. The rain stopped long enough for me to get to my car and then it poured on the drive home.
Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon has one last performance today, Sunday February 24th, at 2PM in the Winter Garden Theater (160 West Plant Street).