Jerry Hurley has been a local playwright for a long enough time that audiences have come to expect that he’ll come up with something worthy of a night out.
He’s mastered cornball, he revels in raunch, and he’s skillful at bringing out just enough poignancy to not strain the heart muscles. He keeps ‘em laughing, a tad preachy, simple plotting with characters, always fun loving, never a smarty pants.
And so this upcoming weekend’s performance of “The Trailer Park” is another long-awaited “Hurley Play.” It’s not part of his “Sweet Tea” plays, this time he decides to take on a subject near and dear to comic hearts, and one he knows from many years ago as a child, when he too experienced the wonders of life in a trailer park.
There’s not a Christmas theme here, nothing schmaltzy or sentimental, and if I went into any more detail it would give too much away. Suffice it to say that it’s a break from the usual, the predictable, and it’s filled with enough laughs to keep you rolling in the aisles, if there were in fact aisles, which there are not.
Instead there will be “dessert theater” seating, where the audience can relax at tables and enjoy drinks and a snack as they take in what’s in store for them onstage. The new auditorium seats are set to be installed in the Chapman Theatre by February, in time for the next show of the season.
What’s important here is that in large part because it is a “Hurley Play,” it has attracted a superb assembly of talented actors.
Set in 1959 at the Shady Oaks Trailer Court in northern Florida, the show features a series of comparatively brief scenes, snapshots of a place where a handful of residents, from the young to the retired, have been brought together based on their need to find affordable housing. Sound familiar?
Anchoring the cast are Fred and Betty Williams, played by Mike Giere, from Cape San Blas, and Ashley Olson, from Apalachicola, both veteran actors. Newly arrived next door are Cam and Olive Hendricks, played by Panhandle Player newcomers Scott Davis and Sophia Fonseca, a real-life Apalachicola couple who both work here as professional scientists. And living next to them are Octavia and George, played by Eastpoint’s Denise Butler, who has returned to the stage, and St. George Island’s Rob Pierce.
Apalachicola’s Doug Rauscher as the handyman Sam, and St. George Island’s Megan Shiver, as the graduate student Barbara are both veteran actors, while there are a handful of welcome newcomers to round out the cast, including Eastpoint’s Heather Mapp as Josephine, Apalachicola’s James Frost as her stepson Bennie and Apalachicola’s Josh Hall as Biff Strong.
Judy Loftus handled the directing duties, with Liz Sisung as her assistant, along with Kathy McKendree, Mishelle McPherson, Jim Morris, Nick Avossa, Steve Bonello and Ed Aguiar all backing them up by doing everything from sound, lighting, set design and stage managing.
It’s a grand community effort and well worth your time because, after all, it’s a “Hurley Play.”
The Panhandle Players’ production of “The Trailer Park” is at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at PanhandlePlayers.org