World Premiere Play Shines a Light on Political Intrigue, Miami Style
The last production in the ocean- side space that Florida Stage has called home for nearly 20 years is a fitting one, because it showcases what Florida Stage does best: produce provocative new work by talented playwrights.The fact that this play, When the Sun Shone Brighter, is by South Florida playwright Christopher Demos-Brown, is proof that when it comes to talent, we don’t have to look further than our own backyard.
When the Sun Shone Brighter centers on fictional Miami Mayor Joe Sanchez Fors, (Dan Domingues) a charismatic, Cuban-American Republican with a lot going for him—youth, brains, looks, a picture- perfect wife (Natasha Sherritt) and a powerful machine backing up his political aspirations. He also has a lot of secrets, because Joe is the kind of guy who could wear one of those T-shirts that say ‘I’m not gay but my boyfriend is.’ And while Joe sneaks around hotels meeting his cute boyfriend Tony (Cliff Burgess), some startling information comes to light regarding Joe’s late father’s murder, information that could ruin his position as darling of the GOP.
With When the Sun Shone Brighter, Demos-Brown has given us a glimpse into the world of political intrigue, where the truth plays second fiddle to ambition. It’s a remarkably tight play for a world premiere, with a carefully crafted structure, believable characters and a wealth of beautiful language.The one caveat is that the play is very Miami-centric, and one wonders how it will play in other areas where the Cuban- American perspective and anti-Castro feel- ings are not as strong or well-known.
Louis Tyrrell skillfully directs a strong cast. Domingues makes a camera-ready politician and pulls off Joe’s cockiness and sincerity. Burgess makes the most of the mostly thankless job of serving as Joe’s conscience, and he gets most of the funny lines. Bill Schwartz plays Joe’s dead dad Jose with a wistfulness that carries most of the play’s poetry. John Herrera, as Joe’s chief patron and political boss, is often the most compelling actor on stage, although too often he shouts his lines. He doesn’t have too, because his presence and performance are enough to keep the audience riveted.
When the Sun Shone Brighter is a strong play, and Florida Stage gives it a worthy first production. It’s a triumphant finish for Florida Stage in this space, before making their summer debut in their new home at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.