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The Book of Liz

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The Book of Mormon it’s not, although the title is clearly inspired by that hit musical. This is, however, a play inspired by yet another religious cult, the Amish.

So what is The Book of Liz? If you can answer the following question, you will have the answer: “Why did I have to dress like a peanut to feel like a human?”

That plaintive question is asked by Sister Liz (played by Christina Groom), a lady of high moral character who leaves her enclosed world to seek another life. But in the process she finds herself. Among other things this sees her dressing up in a peanut suit to help another character Oxana (played by Elena Maria Garcia).

Both of these experienced ladies of the stage take on multiple roles in the play, as do the two male figures Brother Brightbee (Scott Douglas Wilson) and Rev. Tollhouse (Matt Stabile). While as an ensemble cast they perform brilliantly, it is really as individuals that they shine the brightest.

No easy feat in such an uneven play. I discussed the play with several theatre goers after the performance, and the consensus was it could have been ‘crisper’ and would have benefitted from some judicious editing. At one point the play seemed to end, but then continued for several more minutes.

The intent of the play seems to be the basic problem. One person said he had mixed emotions. While praising the actors for giving it all they had, he said he was not sure the play conveyed the message it was trying to send. Another said it was strong at the beginning but seemed to lose focus in the middle portion while ending on a strong note. An experienced theatre critic summed it up in one word: trite.

The playwright, David Sedaris, is best known as a novelist who has sold ten million copies. He and his wife co-wrote this in 2002. I suspect their skills as a playwright have improved since this early effort.

Special mention must be made of the broad Cockney accent offered by Wilson and Garcia. In one of their character roles, they played immigrants from the Ukraine who got this accent because “their English teacher was a retired chimney sweep.” A nice touch, but one that may be lost on American audiences who would not equate the occupation with the accent. Think Liza Doolittle, and it will help.

The play labors under the weight of such unwieldy lines as this. “It might be easier to dress like Miles Standish if you did something about the air conditioning in here.”

Any actor who can deliver this and get a standing ovation (which the cast did get) certainly deserves it.

The Book of Liz is being performed until June 28 at the Vanguard Theatre on Andrews Ave. in Ft. Lauderdale.

Next on the bill at the Vanguard is a comedy: Waiting for Waiting for Godot from Aug 28-Sept. 13.

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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