Saturday, February 7, 2015

Bradenton-area actor sparks "The Buffalo Kings"

   When the world premiere of "The Buffalo Kings" opened at freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg a few weeks back, two well-known Bradenton-area actors were part of the ensemble cast. Now there's only one, Katherine Michelle Tanner. The other, Jenny Aldrich, had to drop out for some personal reasons.
   The play, by Natalie Symons, has been a huge hit for freeFall. I runs through this weekend, and tickets are reportedly scarce.
   The acting's impressive all around. (Aldrich was replaced by long-time Tampa Bay area favorite Mimi Rice, who stepped in at the last minute and performed one show with script in hand.)

Tanner (left) and Aldrich (right)
   The script, about a family on New York state facing several crises, some of the  everyday variety and others life-shattering, has tons of delicious great moments and some good laughs, but it's unfocused. It's packed with inconsequential subplots (one about a bad hairdo takes up a lot of the 80-minute first act and then is simply dropped) and extraneous characters (one houseguest who nobody can stand has to stay because his car is snowed in, while everyone else seems to come and go at will.) Meanwhile, the most compelling relationship, the one between a teenage boy recovering from a hate crime and his grandfather who's in the early stages of dementia, never gets developed -- and then turns out to be the raison d'etre for the entire story.
    Tanner and the rest of the cast (which also includes the always terrific Brian Shea) make it pretty easy to overlook the script flaws. This is a handsomely mounted and wonderfully acted production of a play that's overflowing with promise but seems not quite finished.
   There are two shows Saturday and one Sunday at freeFall. Tickets are $21-$44. FreeFall is at 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-498-5205,

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