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Georgia Mallory Guy and theater that makes you think

Bill DeYoung

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Georgia Mallory Guy onstage in freeFall's "Rose and Walsh." Photo: Thee Photo Ninja.

It’s not exactly letting the cat out of the bag to explain that Walsh McClarren, one of the two title characters in Neil Simon’s Rose and Walsh, is dead. The audience finds out in the opening seconds of the comic drama, onstage through Aug. 28 at freeFall Theater.

Walsh’s deadness does not dissuade his longtime partner, Rose Steiner, from engaging in witty repartee with his ghost; she can see and hear him – as can the audience – through strong, animated performances by Patrick Ryan Sullivan and Stephanie Dunnam.

Rose’s assistant, the long-suffering Arlene, is played by Georgia Mallory Guy. While Arlene and Walsh – understandably – don’t share any dialogue, the characters exist on a similar plain. They’re both extremely important to Rose, the centerpiece of the play, as she enters her golden years.

“Arlene,” says actress Guy, “is so enamored with the romanticism of the ghost of Walsh. But I think she believes him to be real, for Rose. Whatever that means. And she feels his presence sometimes.”

Guy also believes that Arlene’s personal journey is similar to her employer’s; “The parallel lives of these two women 30 years apart,” she says, “and how the story is woven in and affects them.”

Rose and Walsh was the last play Simon published. It’s generally accepted that its themes of age, mortality and reparation were weighing on his mind as he approached the end of his life.

“I think Arlene’s reflective of Neil Simon’s own relationship with his daughter,” Guy explains, pointing to a key scene in the second act: “I don’t know that those are directly words that might have been spoken to him, or words that he scripted that she might have wanted to say.

“It’s a beautiful love story, and it’s a story we don’t see onstage, such a beautiful story about an older couple. And how love lives within us as we grow more mature in years.”

The transformative power of theater is an important concept for Georgia Mallory Guy, an Equity (professional) thespian who’s performed for years on both sides of the bay. Her most recent performances was in Jobsite’s pre-pandemic production of Constellations (2019); she’s happy to get back under the stage lights.

Guy is, however, rarely idle. She spends half of each year teaching theater at Centenary University in New Jersey – she and her husband travel between the states – and lately she’s been pouring her considerable energy into Tampa-based ThinkTank Theatre for Young Audiences, which she founded four years ago with Stageworks artistic director Karla Hartley.

The new ThinkTank production, Matt Harmon’s Exhibits in the Zoo, premieres this weekend at Stageworks. Kara Gold-Harris directs.

“Exhibits in the Zoo.” Photo provided.

Exhibits tells the story of a young, mute Polish boy, living in Warsaw during the days of Nazi occupation, who discovers a German soldier’s camera.

With ThinkTank, Guy explains, “Our target audience is middle school, high school and above. There’s Young Adult literature, and that’s what we aim to put on our stages, this concept of YA material performed in a professional setting by professionals. And with our intern program, we have quite a few high school students.

Exhibits, this beautiful, really moving play that is set very much as a Holocaust story, really is a metaphor for today. You can see the issues these people are going through, and in some sort of allegorical way bring it back to yourself. You can see how the playwright has used this particular point in time to reflect what’s going on in our daily life, and in our world now.”

Running Aug. 12-21, Exhibits at the Zoo is the opening salvo in the group’s 2022 TYA Playwrights Festival. Two additional productions, The Most Epic Awesomest Superhero Movie Ever and Star Stuff, follow (with one performance each) later in the month.

The ThinkTank goal, Guy says, is to “hit the middle ground” between plays for little kids, and theater for adults. Previously, “The expectation was, we just wanted them to jump from Sleeping Beauty to appreciating something like Rose and Walsh, let’s just say.”

ThinkTank Theatre for Your Audiences was designed to be a bridge.

“I’ve had kids come and see Rose and Walsh,” Guy explains,and they say ‘I loved it; it was so good.’ I’m not sure it talks to them directly the way it talks to their parents, or the way to talks to me. But they love the good works onstage.

“But there are plays they come see where they go ‘Oh my God, that’s me onstage.’ And that just really melts my heart, when they say ‘I understood that, because it was about me.’”

Tickets for Rose and Walsh here.

Tickets for Exhibits in the Zoo here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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