From the St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 13, 1989
8 Tangy Slices of Florida Life
“Postcards” delivers playwright’s punch
By Peter Smith
At a Glance: Postcards by Greg Tozian; directed by Val Day; Continuing through Sunday at The Loft Theater, 1441 Fletcher Ave., Tampa. Call 972-3383 (Tampa) for reservations.
Critics often have to treat new playwrights gently. After all, a new writer can be a fragile flower and easily discouraged. So you look for the good, mention what doesn’t work and try to be supportive, while still remembering that your first obligation is to the audience.
I don’t have to do that with Tampa writer Greg Tozian. His Postcards, playing this weekend at Tampa’s Loft Theater, is a remarkable play by any standards. The show consists of eight short pieces (all save one are monologues) illustrating aspects of Florida life. All the sketches are about one kind of obsession or another, veering in tone from cartoony slapstick to exquisite poetry. Tozian, a former film critic for the Tampa Tribune, has an ear for human speech that is acute; nine people speaking to us in the course of the evening, and each of them becomes real in turn.
The show opens with Under the Governor, which takes place in the bomb shelter under the Capitol building in Tallahassee. Willard is in charge of the place and showing a reporter around. Willard is also crazier than waltzing mice; he hasn’t seen another human being in five months and has spent most of his time living on Snickers bars and ice cream, formulating plans for the post-Holocaust fun he’s going to have.
As his ideas, strange to being with, spiral deeper and deeper into full-goose paranoia, he gets funnier and funnier, a one-man version of Dr. Strangelove. Louis Greto, as Willard, rides the roller coaster of this brain with terrifying glee; what’s scarier than a wild man with a gun?
El bote de Ciggaro is the easiest, and therefore, the least, of the evening’s pieces. Patricia French and Rosie Geier are funny as a hapless couple who get mixed up with cocaine dealers, but the piece has a sitcom tone that just doesn’t satisfy as some of the other sketches do.
Lamont Leon plays a concert violinist turned ad man in Fish Don’t Rent. Leon’s voraciously venal Guy Bob Conway joyously recites the latst of his business conquests, but the sound of the classical music he had forsaken draws him away from thoughts of commerce. Leon is a strong actor who gives the character’s dichotomy resonance.
Florence “Dyna-Flo” Wallace is a race-car driver who is about to embark upon her first Daytona 500; she has other plans besides winning. She’s convinced that it is possible to achieve a real communion with her car and is going to try a hazardous experiment to see if it’s true. Wallace is played by Mary Liniger, one of the area’s best actresses. Her Dyna-Flo is as obsessed as the man in the first sketch, but her desire is so pure and joyous that you want her to be right.
Snow White and the Secret Police is a harrowing story, told by Leslie, who snatches kids from amusement parks for a living to sell to childless couples. She and her husband are working Disney World, and she becomes convinced that a child she sees there is heres, the child her husband persuaded her to sell. She is telling the story under police interrogation, and the pathetic banality of her life makes the evil she does all the more terrifying. Leslie is played by Sherri Whittington, who seems to have a key to a room inside herself that I would not be brave enough to open.
From one perverse extreme to another (but funny this time), Lily and Franz tells the tale of a Jacksonville cop and her new partner, with whom she’s become very close. Betsy Bartholomew tells the tale of her new friend with in-your-face frankness that cheers rather than titillates.
Woody Nixon plays an Air Force pilot’s con in Surface to Air, trying to come to terms with his father’s death. Nixon is compelling in the part; he never liked the guy, but he knows what he has lost.
Saving the absolute best for last, Peggy O’Neal plays a world-class swimmer, paralyzed from the waist down, who discovers a new life in Dolphins. O’Neal sits in a wheelchair and speaks calmly and beautifully of swimming the sea with her cetacean companions. Tonight, though, her trip with the dolphins will be one-way. Bound to steel on land, she regains her lost grace and strength in the ocean and is determined to follow the dolphins, sure that they want her with them. The character she portrays is so serenely obsessed with her story, so matter-of-factly ecstatic, that once, again, you want her dreams to be real.