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Your weekend arts forecast: freeFall, Stageworks, TFO return

Bill DeYoung



Emilee Dupre and Eric Davis star in "The Turn of the Screw," opening Saturday at freeFall Theatre. Thee Photo Ninja.

There are a half dozen characters in Henry James’ classic gothic ghost story The Turn of the Screw, which takes place inside a dark, spooky English country house at the turn of the (20th) century.

And something just isn’t right.

In Jeffrey Hatcher’s theatrical adaptation, there are just two actors – the naïve governess hired to look after a pair of children shares the stage with the rest of the players in the story, all of those portrayed by the same performer.

This minimalist re-telling, which Hatcher debuted in 1996, is now the go-to Screw for theaters around the world, so great is the tension, so mysterious and unpredictable the physical and vocal twists of this second actor.

It should come as no surprise that freeFall Theater’s new production of The Turn of the Screw, opening Saturday, features artistic director Eric Davis in the all-important multi-character role. The company’s 2015 production of The Tempest was literally a one-man show, and people are still talking about it with amazement.

Davis, the engine that drives freeFall, doesn’t act all that often, so it’ll be a treat to see what he does with Henry James’ gang of spooks.

The Turn of the Screw, the 2019-2020 season opener, also stars Emilee Dupre of the Broadway Theatre Project, most recently seen at freeFall in Crumbs From the Table of Joy, as the thoroughly freaked-out governess.

Saturday’s opening night follows preview performances Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

It’s directed by Timothy Saunders, who did amazing things with last season’s Buyer & Cellar – which also featured a razor-sharp multi-character turn from a single actor (Chris Crawford, recently added to the freeFall team as Associate Artistic Director).

Details and tickets here.

Betty Jane Parks in Stageworks’ “Wait Until Dark.” Photo by Karla Hartley.

Also rousing from its sleepy summer slumber is Tampa’s venerable Stageworks Theatre, where the classic thriller Wait Until Dark premieres Friday.

Frederick Knott’s story concerns a blind woman, smuggled secrets and some seriously bad dudes who wants what she has in her Greenwich Village apartment … who will triumph?

Wait Until Dark was made into a successful 1967 film starring waifish-but-steely strong Audrey Hepburn as Susan, the sightless protagonist. Betty Jane Parks has the role at Stageworks.

Stageworks Artistic Director Karla Hartley, who recently helmed Fun Home at American Stage in St. Pete, directs.

Details and tickets here.

For your theatrical pleasure, Dinner With Friends is in its final weekend at Tampa Repertory Theatre, and Meteor Shower is still onstage at Jobsite (through Oct. 6). Next week, American Stage returns with Vietgone.

Oh, and this: Let’s all welcome The Florida Orchestra back to active duty. Maestro Michael Francis kicks off the 2019-2020 season with Cuban pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan on Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Ravel’s Bolero, Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, Mason Bates’ Mothership and Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.  Performances are Friday at the Straz Center, Saturday at the Mahaffey and Sunday (a matinee) at Ruth Eckerd Hall. All tickets here. We’ll have lots more on the TFO return Friday in the Catalyst.

Purple haze

The legendary British rock band Deep Purple is at the Mahaffey Theater Friday night, with lead singer Ian Gillan and the rhythm section of Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums) still intact from the classic “Smoke on the Water” days. Dixie Dregs co-founder Steve Morse has had the hotshot lead guitarist’s role since 1994.

Fun fact: Even if you’re not a Deep Purple fan as such, you’re probably familiar with Ian Gillan’s voice – he sings the role of Jesus on the original, zillion-selling Jesus Christ Superstar album from 1970 (the one with the brown cover, before JCS was made into a stage musical and a terrible movie).

Tickets here.

And now, this

Guitarist Nate Najar and his trio play the Imagine Museum Friday, with music he recorded for his breezy Under Paris Skies album. Ooh-la-la, the event, which includes admission to the Imagine gallery, is free for members. Non-members can find tickets here.

Kafkassa. Photo provided.

The Palladium, as eclectic as ever, has a rockin’ boogie-woogie blues piano night Friday with two Florida greats in a keys-to-keys showdown: Barry Cuda and the Right Reverend Billy C. Wirtz. The program, for reasons unknown, is called Ferrari and Thai Stick. Info here. Saturday night finds the 14-member world music/gypsy dance ensemble Kafkasso returning to Casa Palladium. Info here.

Catalyst features earlier this week told us all about the BIG INK demonstrations at the Morean Arts Center and the unique dance performances at thestudio@620 by Project Alchemy and its Momentum choreographers.

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