Editor’s Note: The following is a review of “Late Bloomers,” a play about Winter Texans in the Rio Grande Valley that is enjoying packed audiences at the Cooper Center for Communication Arts at South Texas College in McAllen, Texas. This review was published in the Valley Town Crier, McAllen.
This uproarious romantic comedy has excited Winter Texans so much that tickets for “Late Bloomers” are going fast for the performances on Jan. 20 to 23.
Three thousand Winter Texans bought out the original show four years ago. Now the record looks certain to be beaten by a good-humored collection of comedy lovers.
This unique play was written by Eric Wiley, professor at the University of Texas-Pan American. Twelve performances at South Texas College in McAllen are packing every seat. It has become a stage classic, originating at UT Pan American. It deserves being made into a film. The good news is that after 12 performances, ending Jan. 23, more performances are being planned in some large recreational vehicle parks in a few Valley cities. Again, tickets will be scarce, but well worth this unusual play.
The six players, three of them returning from the first play four years ago, all do magnificent jobs as strange characters. They meet in a clubhouse of the mythical Late Bloomers RV Park in San Benito. This will make all the Valley RV parks free of libel for the funny antics which follow.
The six characters all have juicy roles. Wiley’s wild cast plays to the hilt with some choice bits of reality, expertly orchestrated by director Jorge Contreras. After each performance, filled with Winter Texans, you can hear them say things like “They really hit this on the nose,” as they are leaving.
Noel Reyna plays George Finch, the extremely strange older man who owns the park. He fools most of the audience as being an old man, a bit crazy and wild. He actually graduated from the UTPA stage in 2009 and is now a touring comic who has performed many shows in New York City, Philadelphia and New Jersey. He steals the show, but also the rest of the cast deserves a real bow.
Emily Ruby Fierra plays Lupita Garza, a helper to George Finch, who tries to keep him and the park going, despite all the owner’s apparent craziness at times. She is aware that he has bought her a ring, but the owner’s shifting intentions make everyone nervous. She matches the skill of all the cast at making you believe they really work there with all their problems.
Kelly Haime plays the owner’s daughter, Connie Finch, and carries much of the action, trying to keep him away from other women. Haime is from Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada, and recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from UT Pan American. She proves her stage skill by playing a difficult role with enormous poise, as all the others did, making the audience gasp at times with their stage ability.
One of the women she fears is Blaze, played by Cassie Dean, whose character works at a nearby gentlemen’s club. She struts around in very short skirts and extremely high heels. In real life, Dean has just graduated with a degree in theater and proves she is a real stage performer with her outrageous and believable scenes.
The character that every Winter Texan seems to identify with is busybody Jimmy Swanson, who is, as he reminds everyone constantly, the secretary of the Residents Association, a cantankerous part played terrifically by Michael Moore, whose nickname as a student actor at UTPA was “The Legend.”
The oddest character is Terry Rhodes, who turns out to have two roles, really, both beautifully juggled by the masterful young actor, Alexander Gelman. The set, a clubhouse in a run-down RV Park, has been effectively rendered with both charm and reality by set designer Jason Huerta.
Tickets may be purchased for $10 at the door at the Cooper Center for Communication Arts at South Texas College. The box office will be open 90 minutes before the show. Tickets are $8 for students, military, seniors and Winter Texans. For reservations, call 400-8012. Reservations highly recommended, as some shows are almost sold out.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Jan. 20, 21 and 22 and at 2 p.m. Jan. 23 at STC . Other performances are pending elsewhere in the Valley this year. Winter Texans and other theater lovers will enjoy it.