Breakthrough Theater of Winter Park
by Carl F Gauze
By Robert Harling
Directed by Wade Hair
Starring Nikki Darden Creston, Brooke Dennis , Ashley Vankirk
Breakthrough Theater is back on the air, operating out of a former belly dance school on the fringes of Winter Park. We saw the first two acts of this feminine comedy set in rural Louisiana, and then the lights went out. Somehow, this reveals some unknown symmetry in the universe.
Truvy (Nicki Preston Darden) runs a tiny hair salon in her garage set in competitive Chinquapin Parish somewhere in north Louisiana. She hired down-on-her-luck Annelle (Brooke Dennis), and today they prepare to prep for Shelby’s (Ashley Van Kirk) wedding. Shelby’s has some medical issues and while attractive, she she believes she can’t have children, a serious impediment to a happiness in this rural town. Ashley’s mom M’Lynn (Marcie Schwalm) stands against the wedding for all the small-town meddling reasons, and they bicker over hairdos and flowers and where the honeymoon might be. In rural Lousiana, you are your hairdo. And outside the salon, a steady stream of gunfire punctuates the neighborhood as the menfolk shoot squirrels for entertainment.
This takes us up to the Act Two intermission, and then a major power failure in the real world leaves us dark. With the lights out up and down the street, we all used our cell phones to light the end of the second act. Then show was cancelled, but I can assure you there’s a happy and satisfying ending lurking in the plot. As to what I did see, it was fun. Ms. Darden and her new penny-bright copper hair stand out, along with her comic timing. Annelle begins angry and scared, but the salon gives her confident, some food money, and a cheap apartment. Shelby keeps it vulnerable, and her attempt to get out of her mother’s domination is a familiar story. M’Lynn manipulates with the best of them, but without a daughter to control, she feels (and is) useless. It’s a catty story, with a passel of unhappy women with a dark underbelly of brittle humor and more than brutal emotions. On the technical side, this new Breakthrough space is much nicer if a little out of the way. Sound and sight lines are good, bathrooms improved, and the Amtrak line removed. Breakthrough now has an actual dressing room. The emergency lighting may need an upgrade, but parking is ample and right off Goldenrod just past 436. Look for the theater just past “Jeremiah’s Ice” and you’re there. It’s a rough start but with a good production and solid cast, and I’m sure the electricity will be on in time for the next show.