Regional Reviews: Florida – West Coast
This is the third year of Sarasolo, the brainchild of local celeb Ann Morrison and ex-husband Blake Walton. Originally conceived to showcase local performers in their solo shows, this festival has now grown to four days of performances spread over two weekends in two locations Crocker Memorial Church for day and early evening performances, and The Starlite Room for late night events. Due to generous donations made through fall’s annual The Giving Challenge, the festival has grown way beyond its humble beginnings. On the opening day of the festival, I attended two of the four scheduled shows and was delighted to see very large houses and to observe many members of the community spending the entire day.Gutless & Grateful, written and performed by Amy Oestreicher, is the story of a young woman’s journey past medical trauma when, after a blood clot, her stomach exploded in the operating room. Twenty surgeries later and six years of being unable to eat or drink a drop of fluid. Born with Broadway on her brain, Amy shares her inspiring journey through songs. Her song choices always illuminate her story and range from Marc Blitzstein (“I Wish It So”) through Marvin Laird and Joel Paley (“Born to Entertain”), Cole Porter (“The Physician”), Stephen Sondheim (“I Remember” and “Take Me to the World”), and Bill Finn (“Sailing”). Toward the end Amy incorporates a song written for her by David Friedman and Kathie Lee Gifford (“Still Alive”) and a song written by her (“Lost in the Corner”). Through this amazing range of songs every emotion is beautifully illustrated.
Ms. Oestreicher is an engaging performer and, at the performance I attended, showed great poise when a recalcitrant computer made it necessary for her to deliver the two Sondheim selections a capella and, even though they are tricky (when is Sondheim not?), she delivered amazing performances. Still, the audience was with her 100%, awed by her resilience in the face of adversity that would crush most people.
In Spitting in the Face of the Devil, written and performed by Bob Brader, directed and developed by Suzanne Bachner, Mr. Brader tells the story of his childhood and young adulthood with an abusive pedophile father. It is a harrowing story. The story is beautifully written, a clear concise narrative punctuated by quick sips of water. It is as focused as an Eric Bogosian script is meandering. Mr. Brader’s deliver is superb, at one point I thought what a wonderful Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey he might make. He is based in New York which probably will preclude my seeing him in other roles, something I would love to do.
Also on the schedule the day I attended were Sharon Ohrenstein in Golden Roads: A New Musical About Golda Meir and Valerie David in The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within. Sarasolo After Hours brings You Are What You Think, a cabaret starring Paula Broadwater.
Sarasolo Festival began in 2015, a dream to bring solo theater artists together in our arts-loving town by Blake Walton and Ann Morrison. The community has embraced the concept, witness the packed houses at the shows I attended.
Sarasolo 2017, performed at Crocker Memorial Church and The Starlite Room, Sarasota, through February 5, 2017. Visit gottavan.strikingly.com for more information.
- See Amy’s photos and videos of Gutless and Grateful in Sarasota here.
- See where Gutless & Grateful will be next at www.amyoes.com/tix.