"A Bench in the Sun" offered Boca Grande patrons a seamless Royal Palm Players production directed by RPP Artistic Director Michele Strauss with strong performances from a wobbly Charlie Tyler as Harold, a cantankerous Jim Grace as Burt and featuring a teasing turn from Margaret Bush as Adrienne, a former movie star in search of a family.
The strength of the production could be demonstrated by the Sunday pull on an audience numbering well above 100 at the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium. By Sunday's farewell performance word-of-mouth would kill lesser productions on a sunny island day where temperatures frolicked in the 70s.
Grace was the benchpost around which "Bench" revolved. The veteran of more than 40 RPP performances is more comfortable on stage than many of his peers and it helped the audience buy into his role as a pajama-clad grump who is cheered considerably when Adrienne's attentions turned his way.
The “A Bench in the Sun” cast takes their bows, from left: Jim Grace, Maragret Bush and Charlie Tyler.
Tyler played a softening 77-year-old romantic who counts his dead friends to get to sleep. He is immediately smitten by Adrienne's gray-streaked joie de vivre and wholeheartedly buys into her program of dances and bus trips to Atlantic City as a way to liven up their Valley View Garden retirement home. He is the first to successfully romance Adrienne.
The first act ended with loud applause.
The second act found the onstage trio debating the hereafter and finding out their quiet rest home is on the selling block. Adrienne opened the third act having settled upon Burt as her lover much to Harold's chagrin.
What: Royal Palm Players reading of "Suddenly Last Summer" by Tennessee Williams
When: 1 p.m. Friday
Where: Boca Grande Community Center
Cast: Mrs.Venable is Alice Gorman, Dr. Cukrowitz is Patrick Carey, Miss Foxhill is Vivian Rice, Mrs. Holly is Nancy Lyons, George Holly is Jim Sullivan, Catherine Holly is Ann Fletcher, Sister Felicity is Linda Rollyson.
Director: Michele Strauss
The well-paced play closes with both men mourning the loss of their flighty love interest whose charming ways and beauty helped soften the heartache they both gladly endured as the price for having had her in their life even for such a short time. This is clearly a case of having better to have loved and lost than never to have loved again.
It was clear the audience loved the show and the well-drawn characters brought to life by Tyler, Bush and Grace. Attendees were slow to exit back into the beautiful day as the actors took their bows.
There is only one play left this season with Strauss once again directing the quirky "A Bad Year for Tomatoes" April 7-10. "A Bench in the Sun" gives "Tomatoes" a tough act to follow.