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Group 3 – ‘Florida Couple,’ or fowl play with Ray and Jolene


Darlyne Franklin was one of four writers who participated in Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge. You mean playwriting, right? No, for safety reasons, the 24-Hour Playwriting Project was modified this year to the 24-Hour Screenwriting Project. It has also been converted into a virtual fundraiser for the theater, inviting patrons to “vote” for their favorite short film, cast or writer via the ticketing portal with a donation of any amount.

Franklin is an actor, playwright and producer. Her writing and production credits include Joey & Maria’s Comedy Italian Wedding (1992), The Wake of Matty O’Malley, Wicked Real Housewives of the Mob and The Soprano’s Last Supper. Darlyne’s recent work includes The Biscotti Sisters (a campy, corny show in which two Italian sisters battle it out in a cookie bake-off) and Wicked Real Housewives of Boston, which opened in the Boston area in 2010.

Darlyne participated in Laboratory Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project in 2018 and 2019, and decided to make the leap to screenwriting for this year’s challenge. She titled this year’s script Florida Couple, and it drops us unceremoniously smack dab into an argument between Ray and Jolene over the death of Pete the Parrot, a drunken bird who took a spill down a flight of steps and broke his beak in five places. Ray is disconsolate and suspects fowl play, but Jolene is delighted by the bird’s demise. “He talked too much; he said dumb stuff,” Jolene proclaims. Worst of all, Pete swilled whiskey from her glass. “A grown man crying over a dead parrot,” Jolene mocks Ray the way Pete the Parrot mocked her.

Chock full of witty repartee with a down home, southern spin, Florida Couple is a tour de force. But remarkable writing and drolly comedic lines demand split second timing and impeccable delivery. Steven Coe and Madelaine Wright provide both as few other actors can.

Southwest Florida theater-goers have enjoyed the rare opportunity to see theatrical power couples perform together on several occasions. There’s Burttram and Powers in productions like Outside Mullingar (Florida Repertory Theatre) and Repossessed (Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts). Aricka Shuck and Dave Rode did in Same Time Next Year (Cultural Park Theater) just before they wed. But whether it’s comedy (Hand to God, I’m Sorry I Put You in a Play, Lab Theater) or erotic psychodrama (Venus in Fur, The Studio Players), Coe and Weymouth have a special somethin’ something that’s on full display in Florida Couple.

Chemistry aside, what’s truly incredible about Coe and Weymouth’s performances in Florida Couple is their affinity for the material and ability to master a script rife with snarky one-liners, snappy comebacks and wry socio-political humor in a little more than an hour – all while tossing their insults and accusations back and forth at each other in an Appalachian mountain drawl that underscores that you’d be more likely to come across Ray and Jolene on an episode of Jerry Springer or being interviewed by Lisa McCune or Chris Hansen than at Lincoln Center or Shakespeare in the Park. Equally amazing, Coe and Weymouth switch to New England and RP (Queen’s English) accents respectively for a commercial that comes just before the film’s ending, and transition back into the mountain folk drawl without skipping a beat down.

There are a number of subplots in the film (an especially hilarious one that has to do with corn cobs) and Franklin solves not one, but three crimes (excluding Ray and Jolene’s murder of the English language). But more cannot be said of either the writing or the acting without giving too much away. Still, it bears mentioning that Kris Glover’s decision to shoot the film documentary style complimented both the screenplay and the performances, giving the latter a feeling of immediacy and authenticity in a story that, alas, rings all too true.

Florida Couple was made possible in part by the sponsorship of Gallant Lawn Care in Cape Coral. Founded in 1989, Gallant provides landscaping services utilizing environmentally-responsible products to a diverse range of customers throughout the region whose grass really is “greener on the other side.”

Kudos also go out to 24-Hour Screenwriting Coordinator Char Loomis, Jonathan Johnson for lighting and sound and to Paula Sisk for video and IT support.

You can see the film here.

And the way you vote for the film, Darlyne Franklin and the Glover-Weymouth-Coe group is with your donation. The highest grossing film wins, with the announcement being made via Facebook Live at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night.

November 23, 2020.


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