Starlite Players returns for the new year with “My Funny Valentine,” four comedies about unusual love stories
Husband & wife pen play about husband-&-wife playwrights, Cupid commits armed robbery, shy man calls for phone sex, meeting in bar ends with a twist
SARASOTA, FL: Starlite Players presents a skewed look at love in “My Funny Valentine,” a collection of four short comedies featuring the work of experienced, locally based theatre professionals including several veterans of this busy performing arts company, which has produced 21 comedies since its debut in July 2015. All four of the plays are presented for each of five performances, scheduled for January 21-23, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, January 24, at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The comedies, many of them award-winners, are staged on the second floor of The Starlite Room, 1001 Cocoanut Avenue, Sarasota. Tickets cost $17.50 and include a 15% discount on an optional pre- or post-show meal (including a matinee brunch on Sunday, January 24) at The Starlite Room.
“Connubial Bliss” evolved through an earlier collaboration by husband-and-wife playwrights Jo Morello and Jack Gilhooley that resulted in “The Split,” a romantic comedy about husband-and-wife playwrights and their agent. Manatee Players produced that full-length play at Riverfront Theatre several years ago with Bob Trisolini as director. The playwrights later created two short plays from “The Split”–“Connubial Bliss” and “Co-Dependents”–as part of their collection of short comedies titled “Life Upon the Wicked Stage.” Gypsy Stage Repertory toured “Wicked” through the Tampa Bay area last January and “Connubial Bliss” was also presented by Lantern Theatre in Sheffield, Kent, U.K., in October. Starlite Players will produce both plays this spring, with “Connubial Bliss” set for January 21-24 and “Co-Dependents” slated for March 17-20. Trisolini reprises his directorial role in “Connubial Bliss,” which explores the reactions of wife Marie (Bonnie Schiavone), husband Charlie (Ryan Fitts) and their hard-edged agent Leslie (Carolyn Zaput) when two of their plays meet with unaccustomed failure.
In 1-900-SEX-DATE by Julian Olf, naïve Milton (Rafael Petlock) musters his courage to call “Veronique” (Jamie Lee Butrum), a veteran phone sex worker who handles such calls routinely—but her conversation with Milton is far from routine. Long-time director James Thaggard of Bradenton helms this comedy, which won the Nantucket Short Play Award and has had productions around the country. Olf directed and taught playwriting at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, where he also served as theatre department chair. Recently retired to Sarasota, he directed “ART” for Banyan Theatre Company and plans to continue writing and directing. Petlock and Butrum have previously performed for Starlite Players and Butrum, who is the company’s production coordinator, has also served as a director.
Thaggard directs the same cast in T.G.I.F. by Michael E Wolfson. A man (Petlock) unwinds after a busy week of work by sitting quietly in a cocktail lounge with his newspaper and a drink when a well-dressed woman (Butrum) insists on joining him. Annoyed, he questions her motives—and profession—as they negotiate their way to an unexpected resolution of their conflict. T.G.I.F. has had four previous productions nationally.
“Valentine’s Day” is a new play by Clearwater playwright Richard J. Budin, whose play “Wholly Moses” was recently staged by Starlite Players. Tampa-based Tim Guerrieri directs this comedy, in which Sharon (Lauren Ward) arrives home to find her boyfriend Harold (David Downer) hiding in the bushes, naked. He claims a thief named Cupid, armed with a bow and arrow, stole everything including his clothes. Guerrieri previously directed two other plays for Starlite Players, “How I Met the Sopranos” and “Talkback,” in which Downer performed.
The Starlite Room restaurant regularly opens at 4 p.m. and will open at noon on Sunday, January 24, for a matinee brunch. Show tickets and information are available from www.starliteplayers.com, [email protected], and 941.587.8290 (1 to 5 p.m.). Also see the Starlite Players Facebook page. For meal reservations, call The Starlite Room (starlitesrq.com) at 941.702.5613. (Please note the spelling of “STARLITE.”)
Starlite Players, formed in June 2015, presents a collection of short comedies for one weekend each month, featuring the finest of local talent. Jo Morello is the producer through her company Jo Morello, Inc. The Starlite Room donates space for performances and rehearsals and the Jazz Club of Sarasota also provides sponsorship.