Key West, Florida, the former home of Nobel prize winning author Ernest Hemingway and a place where ‘snowbirds’ from north America and elsewhere escape their harsh winters and bask under blue skies and warm temperatures, is also a haven for stage productions.
The Waterfront Playhouse is in many ways the grande dame of the Key West stage, having first opened its doors 75 years ago. Located on historic Mallory Square, this 150-seater venue has presented shows ranging from poignant plays to slapstick comedies to rousing Broadway musicals.
Recently, it was host to the Tony-award winning musical ‘Avenue Q’ where actors speak through the voices of cheeky puppets. Not only is the show bold and brassy but its blurring of borders between cloth and skin is a treat to behold. Even more so as characters wrestle -comically for the most part, sometimes occasionally foulmouthed – with sensitive issues such as sex, love, commitment and the passing of time. Dynamic songs such as ‘If You Were Gay,’ ‘Everyone’s A Little Racist,’ ‘The Internet Is For Porn,’ and ‘You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)’ give some indication of the subjects tackled. There’s no shying away from truth. These lovable puppets – including Princeton (on the arm of Brian Hall) and Kate Monster (Kristen Michelle) – could teach us humans a thing or two about blunt, open honesty. Music and lyrics for the show are by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, based on a book by Jeff Whitty.
This month, the Playhouse presents the multiple award-winning ‘Good People’ by David Lindsay-Abaire about a down-on-her luck woman who hopes an old fling may be her ticket out of her financial mess. Directed by Danny Weathers with set design by Michael Boyer, it is described as funny, brave, even subversive.
Red Barn Theatre was established 37 years ago to premier new scripts and host classic works, with its shows enjoyed through the years by such celebrities as Jimmy Buffett and Tennessee Williams.
This month the theatre hosts Mark St. Germain’s humorous ‘Camping With Henry and Tom’ starring Barry Tarallo as Henry Ford, Richard Grusin as Thomas Edison, and Michael McCabe as Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States. Based on an actual walkabout the trip enjoyed, see what (might have) happened when these two inventors and powerful politician go camping together and get lost in the woods, with philosophical observations on everything from golf to inventions and human values.
Red Barn will host later this month, ‘Short Attention Span Theatre,’ which involves a company of actors, directors and film-makers and a series of 10-minute fresh plays. Directed by Mimi, Gary, and Jack McDonald, it is billed as ‘a high-octane evening of fun for everyone.’
The Key West Theater was originally built in 1848 as the 1st Baptist Church of Key West but is now a renovated performing arts center that presents top-tier music, concerts, theatrical productions, comedy and variety specials, as well as locally-produced Key West events.
This week’s performance menu illustrates its eclectic nature. ‘Oklahoma Smith’ is a show with a difference. The plot focuses on explorer Oklahoma Smith and his trusty sidekick Beanpole who set out to find the lost Book of the Dead and save the world from the evil Mistress Nefarious. The twist: the audience chooses how scenes play out. Does Oklahoma fight the demon ninja or jump the chasm? Does he take on the gunfight or go get a lap dance? Theater goers decide.
In contrast, the theater also hosted former ‘Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year’ and Grammy-winner, Lee Ann Womack. The East Texan singer whose songs have been describing as slicing life wide open to let the pain, the emptiness, the rage and the desire pour out, has been duet partner for a range of well-known names such as Willie Nelson. One album alone, ‘I Hope You Dance’ sold over six million copies, the title track topping multiple charts in multiple formats around the world. Supporting Womack will be Nick Norman, a soulful singer from South Carolina who penned such songs as n songs such as ‘Libba Don’t Call,’ ‘Varela St.’ and a Key West anthem, ‘Good Whiskey.’
So, while you may be sun-tanning by day on one of Key West’s many beaches or wandering leisurely through Hemingway’s home, make sure to keep your evenings free for one of the town’s many live performances.