A Florida Man, wracked with guilt, digs up his dead father to give him the proper Viking funeral he always wanted.
That's the tagline for this play, and that's pretty much the gist of the plot. But this play is not really about plot as it is about people, and about the heart of Florida's deep and resonate spirit. Only a playwright like Bobbitt (Cedar Key, Sunset Village, Across the River, Where the Rivers Meet, Trailer Park Elegy) can construct a scene featuring a dildo machine called the "Sex Canon 3000" which manages to break our hearts and cause genuine tears of joy as we fondly embrace the innocent wonder and magic of pure and abject love. I know that sentence doesn't make any sense but it's the first great reason to see the show.
Five other great reasons are the remarkable cast that bring this weird little redneck swamp play to life. Each as important as the other, this group of freaks demonstrate the power of friendship and bonds of trust as they help dig up old Crud (the family name is Crud) and put him out to Viking pasture. But not before he comes to life as a ghost (inspired by a few sips of Mike's Hard Lemonade), and haunts his sad-sack son to the point of insanity.
Shamrock McShane, as a kind of twisted Hamlet's Ghost of the Panhandle, snarls and snides like Jack Nicholson from The Shining. He seethes with venom and sarcasm and a kind of rejection of the world he left behind. He got his, now let him rest! But please, please, not in the hole. Give him the dignified Viking Funeral! He deserves at least this small reward. Or...is he kidding and fuck you? His Papa William Crud is a character so bereft of compassion, so callous in his manner, that it's a true revelation to McShane's extraordinary talent as an actor we manage to still find empathy in Ghost of Crud Sr.'s final moments, yes, even for him.
You heard right. I'm saying Shamrock McShane was dead on stage as a high complement.
Jorge DeJesus as a Mexican American Highway Patrol Officer is one part Diego Luna and two parts Frank "Ponch" Poncherello from CHIPS. Loyal to both his law enforcement job and his friend's life-need to dig up his father, he manages to walk the thin blue line and honor both responsibilities, and to do it with integrity, swagger and style.
As WEBB, the local conspiracy theorist rapper open mic show-host ex-military flat-earth chem-trail dope, Derek Wohlust gives an impassioned performance. He damn near steals the show with an absurd vanilla-a-capella hip-hop performance about Internet Deep State surveillance and 9/11 that even Kanye West would think was the bomb. Like King of the Hill's Dale Gribble, you may find him obsessive and annoying and difficult to deal with, but you couldn't imagine a diverse life without him. He's the weirdest colors in your crayola box.
Nick Turner as Billy Crud is able to embody hope, optimism, and intelligence even as he is hopeless, downtrodden, and not entirely bright. His deer-in-the-headlights moments usually follow bursts of confidence - like a guy who says, "Let's win this football game!" and then says, "Wait a minute, I don't know how to play football!" Watching Billy never give up connects us to his mission. We don't want to give up either, nor give up on him. And even if by achieving his goal he fucks everything up, it wasn't for lack of enthusiastically trying. I came away from the play thinking to myself, Billy's going to make it. And he's going to help his friends make it. And if he ever was the lead character in a TV show called, Florida Man - the TV Show, I'd tune in each week to watch him try. If Billy Crud was a song, he'd probably go something like this:
Go ahead and play this song while you're reading this post. Not only would it be a great theme song to the television show, "Florida Man" based on the play by Michael Presley Bobbitt, it also embodies the spirit of Cameron Rose Varvel as Gina. In a revelatory powerhouse performance of sheer joy for the craft and the character, Varvel's Gina is young but no kid, soft but no pushover, hard but no shrew. and whip-smart but no genius - unless you consider her Rainman-like ability to quote every law enforcement code ever written in the Sunshine State. Gina is the one female character pretty much in control of all the emasculated male characters in the story. Every moment with Varvel as Gina lights up the stage. Gina gives someone for Billy Crud to try really really hard for. I think somehow, he would like to be her one and only, but also her Sex-Cannon 3000. If he can't live up to that expectation, by God, he's still going to find a way to give it to her. That's about the most Florida Man thing I can say about that.
The set is surprisingly simple and effective, although the final reveal of the Viking "Boat" is something to behold. The lighting design had a few dark spots, but certainly lends good atmosphere, especially to the grave and ghost scenes. And the score, mostly snippets of tunes from local musician Michael O'Meara from his recent album, The Right Track, lends a folksy note of sentimental journey. My understanding is that there is at least one track in every Michael Presley Bobbitt play from Michael O'Meara, who played a lead role in Bobbitt's debut play, Across the River.
THE THEATRE OF MICHAEL PRESLEY BOBBITT By Shamrock McShane
There is an authenticity and a true love for these characters in Bobbitt's writing. It's a story of friendship through adversity, a father and son story, and a story about the wily, weird, and uncompromising natures of love, loss, and redemption. The actors bring their A-game to a script so fine, it won special selection to premiere off-Broadway in the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival of 2019 before landing home in a little nationally regarded theatre called the A.R.T. right here in Florida. Hogtowne, to be precise. Another world-class notorious Florida Man crime story you might have heard about continues at The Acrosstown Theatre for two more weeks.
TICKETS AT THE ACROSSTOWN FOR FLORIDA MAN HERE:
Review by Noel Leroux of GainesvilleDowntown Dot Com
FLORIDA MAN - OFF BROADWAY LINKS AND STORIES
I just wanted to add in that when Michael Presley Bobbit was woried about the TSA at the airport for certain "questionable" items, he wrote a letter which became an actual nationally recognized Florida Man story. So not only will you see a play, you'll be a part of a real Florida Man happening. Check out the viral letter Michael Presley Bobbitt wrote to the TSA here: