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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Arts & Music

Dark comedy ‘American Monkey’ opens at freeFall Theatre

BY WALT BELCHER
Tribune correspondent

Published:

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Anyone who has seen “American Idol” can relate to the next production of the freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Opening this weekend is the world premiere staging of “American Monkey,” a dark comedy written by a European music critic who is a judge on a hit reality show in Estonia.

Mikhael Raud, a former entertainer himself, is a celebrity in the small Northern European country story. Since 2007, he has been a judge on “Searching for a Superstar,” Estonia’s version of “American Idol.”

His experiences on the show inspired his play about a TV reality singing competition that goes off the deep end when a contestant takes the show hostage.

“It’s a very dark comedy with some very serious issues, something like a Quentin Tarantino film with a lot of violence” says the play’s director Eric Davis, who is also artistic director for freeFall.

“A New York producer brought this play to us, and we liked it,” says Davis. “It raises questions about celebrity and the entertainment industry.”

“American Monkey” takes place during a fictional popular televised singing competition “American Superstar.” One of the contestants (played by Chris Jackson) pulls a gun and puts the three judges (Patrick Ryan Sullivan, Stefanie Clouse and John Lombardi) on trial in his own warped version of the Roman Coliseum.

Audience members will get to vote by text on which judges get to survive to the next round. Also, before each production, audience members who are willing can audition to become part of the cast. A select few will play wannabe singers in the competition.

Sullivan appeared on Broadway in “Beauty & The Beast” and “Forty Second Street;” Jackson was named Best Actor In a Play last year at the Theatre Tampa Bay Awards; Clouse was in American Stage’s “Hair” and Lombardi was in freeFall’s production of “Cabaret and “Jewtopia” at the Straz Center in Tampa.

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