Monday, May 3, 2010

REVIEW: 'Jar the Floor'

Westcoast Black Theatre’s “Jar the Floor” is a relishing comedy that takes audiences into a complicated Chicago family whose members are able to laugh despite the deep wounds inflicted on each other and the outside world.

The story takes place in MayDee’s home just outside of Chicago during the celebration of her grandmother MaDear’s 90th birthday. Though the birthday event is supposed to be a happy one with MayDee’s daughter coming into town for the day, MayDee (Alice M. Gatling) is flustered by the following: She hasn’t seen her daughter, Vennie (Jaszy McAllister) in two years, and knows she is only visiting because she wants something; Vennie invites her friend Raisa (Amanda Schlachter) to come at the last minute; MayDee’s grandmother (Tammy Elaine) is suffering from a touch of Alzheimer’s, and MayDee is waiting on an important phone call that will hopefully make her career.

Also, her mom, Lola, makes her daily visit, criticizing MayDee’s choice to focus on a career instead of finding a decent man.

Presented as a theater-in-the-round piece at the intimate Art Center Sarasota space, the production, directed by Van Huff, brings a range of entertaining drama and emotions while touching on some hot-button issues — such as sex. Audiences will enjoy how those issues play out through Cheryl West’s witty dialogue and invigorating performances fueled by the cast.

One of the most dynamic and refreshing on the set was Nate Jacobs, who stepped into the role of the spunky female role of Lola at the last minute when an actress had to back out of the role due to unforeseen circumstances. Jacobs was a life force in the play, taking on Lola with gusto. His interchanges with Gatling are the most enjoyable to watch as the mother/daughter duo often come head to head with each other.

Gatling also delivers as the stern and independent mother of Vennie, who does her best not to lose her cool amid the circumstances. McAllister brings a soft, yet rebellious quality to her role while Schlachter has a boisterous approach to her free-spirited character. Elaine also has a few zippy one-liners as the soft-spoken MaDear.

While there were a couple of times the story seemed to slow down in the second act, these moments were few. Funny, and often relatable, “Jar the Floor” will keep you engaged.

Performances continue through May 9 at ArtCenter Sarasota. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 366-1505.

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