Tonight we had the pleasure of attending The Algarveans Experimental Theater Group’s presentation of Ron Clark’s “A Bench in the Sun” in the Convento de São José in Lagoa. This lovely little 90-seat theater was packed to the rafters with folks looking forward to some light-hearted entertainment, and we were not disappointed.
The show opens on the peaceful grounds of Valley View Gardens Retirement Home; but the peace does not last for long. Residents Harold (Ray Dillon) and Burt (Chris Winstanley) – longtime friends and one-time business partners – spend their days on a bench in the garden bickering and discussing life events – but mostly bickering. Then enters a new resident, the once-famous actress Adrienne (Melanie Winstanley), giving the guys something new to argue over. When they learn that the home is about to be sold and they will have to move, all three join forces to prevent this upsetting development. Adrienne is masterful at toying with the affections of the two friends, then disappears from their life without an explanation.
The intimate nature of the theater was a perfect fit for this play bringing the audience close to the action. The set was simple yet well done, depicting the garden area of the retirement home located somewhere in the USA. The three actors produced fine American accents and played off each other effectively with good delivery of their lines.
The timing between Chris Winstanley and Ray Dillon was wonderful as they both showed evolution of character from hard-nosed curmudgeon to softer caring person. Hats off to director Jim Landis for bringing this out. Melanie Winstanley was charming in her role of Adrienne with a slight flair of “crazy” to fit right in. Stunning costumes by the way! Oh yes, and one other character that we never see, the voice of the daily announcements done with a fantastic New York accent by Tracey Christiansen.
Congratulations to all involved in the production of “A Bench in the Sun”. We look forward to many more great shows from The Algarveans!
Look out for their next production: “The Wizard of Oz” in the Lagoa Auditorium, November 21-22-23.
By FRANK REMIATTE