It is winter time in Key West, season of cold breezes and bright white sunshine, a time when the dog can often be left in the car with just the windows open, in the shade of course, and when Culture comes to Key West. Frequently brought here by talented artists from Up, North who seek winter refuge down here and bring their considerable talents with them.
The Red Barn Theater has kicked off the winter season of live theater with a new play by playwright Bob Bowersox a man who apparently made quite a career in television selling dust catchers as well as acting in more conventional roles on stage and in television and in movies. He's turned his talented hand to writing plays and luckily for Key West he likes to stage them in his home town. I wasn't sure what to expect when I saw the poster advertising the play but I knew I wanted to see it.
The Red Barn is a totally cool space to go see a play. Its hidden somewhat off Duval Street's 300 block behind the Women's Club, and the theater itself fronts onto a relatively large brick courtyard, handy for two wheeler parking but also useful as a space to drop off patrons who arrive by car but aren't able to walk very far. There is a small bar with outdoor seating under the tree canopy and if you aren't alone as I was for this performance, it's a good spot to come early and meet friends. They have 35 seasons under their belt so they have the process of putting on plays pretty well figured out.
The play itself, a family drama set in Arizona was an absorbing study of end of life issues, the successful poet facing one more challenge and one more honor in a long career and being forced to choose between ambition and the reality of a career run dry. He is surrounded by an ambitious wife backed by an equally eager agent on one side balanced by a sympathetic daughter and brother on the other. In the middle for light relief a lively and indifferent nurse who enjoys life and watches the family unravel with professional detachment and a wry sense of humor. I enjoyed the writing and the performances especially as the author managed to avoid the cliches of manufactured drama- no sudden discoveries of dark hidden family secrets or sudden inexplicable plot twists. I thought the story held together well overall and the drama came from within the characters. It was a good night out (right before I had to show up to work one more overtime shift! Argh!).
I know that Up North winter is hitting much of the center of the continent quite hard, an thus winter has arrived. The effects of that sudden deeply cold snap are visible on our roads every day with a sudden influx of out of state tags. In Key West where the cold snaps have produced lows in the mid 60s and are cold enough thanks, the start of winter is marked by the shift in focus from the great watery outdoors to literary pursuits and as always I promise myself not to miss a play at the Red Barn or the Waterfront but unhappily I shall, I always do and regret it. Key West offers a lot each winter for such a modest cockpit.