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Arts & Music

'Fahrenheit 451' heats up Jobsite Theater's stage

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Jobsite Theater aced its production of "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury's disturbing dystopian story about the dangers of playing with fire. Katrina Stevenson directed this compelling drama.

Somewhere and sometime in the future, television screens, sound bites and factoids have subsumed literature. Books are not read, but burned. Smoke and flames have devoured thought, leaving behind blank stares and vacuous minds.

Montag (Chris Jackson) is a dutiful, 31-year-old firefighter whose job is to answer alerts on anyone harboring books. His boss, Beatty (Giles Davies), urges the crew to burn, baby, burn, though he inexplicably quotes lines from banished and vanished works on paper. Something doesn't fit.

Montag is OK with this life, coming home to a tweaked out wife (Nicole Jeannine Smith), until he meets his neighbor, Clarisse (Katie Castonguay). The bright, vivacious 17-year-old ventures out at night, keeps every light in her house lit, asks "why" and — gasp — reads. Her infectious intellectual curiosity turns on Montag's brain, and her old-school grandfather (Ned Averill-Snell) makes the greatest impact of all.

Bradbury said his book cum play had nothing to do with Big Brother or political agendas. He was simply commenting on television's negative impact on books and reading and faulting the individual for it.

Jobsite did a terrific job conveying the author's intent.

The company made effective use of lighting and sound to scare the bejeezus out of the characters — and maybe theatergoers as well. Watching this production, with its broad spectrums of light and dark, disembodied computerized voices and sirens, was a truly visceral experience.

Jackson gave a quiet and intense performance. He was spot on as Montag except for his youthful appearance. He's actually in his early 20s and looks it. But for the sake of science fiction and good acting, this tiny blemish should be overlooked.

Bradbury's brilliant monologues spilled effortlessly from Davies' mouth. He portrayed Beatty as a literary figure whose words, Shakespeare might have said, tripped lightly over his tongue. His performance was no surprise; Davies consistently does remarkable work.

Also superb was Averill-Snell. His crotchety, well-worn character was familiar and comforting, like a good grandpa and his sweater should be. He created a wonderful old-man façade, complete with shuffling feet, a body heavy with time and impatience with fools.

Spirited and perky, Castonguay provided a well-needed burst of light. Smith was deliciously Stepford-like.

The rest of the fine cast included Jon Gennari, Dana Kovar and Daniel Rosenstrauch. Of the three, Kovar had the juiciest role as a woman hell-bent on going down with her beloved books, aka children.

'Fahrenheit 451'

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Straz Center, Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; (813) 229-7827 or www.strazcenter.org

Tickets: $24.50

Running time: 115 minutes

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