“One hour and 12 Mighty Minutes”

Published: October 20, 2006

By Zachary McCoy, Entertainment Editor

On November 4 the Thomas Nelson Community College Players will be presenting two one act plays under the leadership of director Beth Beasley.  Relatively quick and in your face shows, “The Zoo Story” and “The Sandbox” look to get the audience involved and may even challenge the viewer to take a look at their self in retrospect.

Written by Edward Albee, the two plays are often considered classics of modern theatre that are unrelenting in their examination of American culture.

“I’ve always wanted to do these pieces,” Mrs. Beasley said.  “I first read them in high school and have loved them ever since.”  Mrs. Beasley is in her fifth year with the TNCC Players and also teaches English 111.

Although they are different stories, the two plays run back to back and last a little less than an hour and a half combined.  The audience can expect the unexpected throughout, with serious twists beneath a layer of dark comedy.  Weird enough to get people curious, but real enough to relate to, Albee’s stories are full of dialogue that spike interest in the audience and holds up a mirror on certain aspects of human nature.

“The Zoo Story” comes first in the back to back show, and has only two characters.  Peter, played by Andrew Teller, is an executive for a publishing company who is very comfortable in his life.  Jerry, played by Rob Meisner, is a young vagrant who is eager to communicate with anyone and does anything he can to get a response out of people.

“Peter is happy merely existing.” Andrew said.  “He’s happy just living his life, doing his job and is developed just enough that the audience can relate to him.”  Teller has previously worked with Mrs. Beasley in a number of plays at TNCC, including “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.”  He’s also appeared in plays for the Peninsula Community Theatre.

“Peter is probably the original target for the audience to understand, but when Jerry comes in, they will find ways to identify with him as well.”  Teller said.

Rob Meisner has also appeared in plays with Mrs. Beasley and has been involved with the Peninsula Community Theatre.  He’s excited to play the vagrant character and describes Jerry’s behavior in the play as “a bum hassling a rich guy.”

“He’s full of despair, and really eager to talk to people.”  Meisner says.  “But he’s alienated by everyone because they don’t want to hear what he has to say.”  Jerry’s character is vital in testing the audience and making a thought provoking statement.

The actors and the director agree that the play is very raw and disturbing, featuring both emotional and physical harm upon one of the characters.  The subject matter could possibly upset or confuse children, but the audience may very well leave the theatre with a bigger appreciation of life.

In the second one-act, “The Sandbox,” the rituals that we go through when someone’s life is about to end are put under a microscope.  The main characters, Mommy and Daddy, played by Kaitlyn O’Neil and Rico Robinson respectively, seem to think that Grandma’s life is nearing its end.  Mommy has decided that Grandma should be taken to the beach, placed in a sandbox and she will remain there until she dies.

“Mommy is boisterous and bossy,” O’Neil says of her character.  “She represents the overbearing mother stereotype and has to have things done her way.”  This is O’Neil’s first play at TNCC, but she is an award winning actress, who starred in Menchville High School’s district winning plays in 2004.

“Daddy is pretty laid back,” says Rico Robinson.  “He’s basically a yes man to his wife and the audience should be able to get some laughs from the antics between the two characters.”  Daddy is tagged along for the ride and witnesses a musician playing music for his wife’s dying mother.  The musician is played by James Swearengine,  who is significant without spoken lines.  His music sets the tone of the play.

Having the actions on stage centered on her, Grandma is a grumpy 86-year-old played by Victoria Mathis, who in real life is the manager at the Mary T. Christian Auditorium.

“Her daughter has brought her to the beach to die!”  Mathis says.  “She’s pretty upset and has some things to say about her situation.”

Finally, the audience won’t be able to miss the exercising young man on the beach beside Grandma, played by Robert Forsythe.

“My character is not at all what he seems, until the end.”  Robert said.  “He’s somebody under the guise of an actor, everything in this play is a play in itself.”

Mrs. Beasley is excited to have these plays together and hopes the audience wants to get involved; identifying with the story and actors.

The show will be presented  November 3 & 4 at 8 p.m. at the Mary T. Christian Auditorium

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