An enjoyable play that will make you think about life, Andy and the Orphans is an entertaining, thoughtful, humor-and drama-tinged play currently at Boca Raton’s The Sol Theatre appearing now through December 8. I give it a green light to attend, enjoy and discuss later on with friends and family. It has plenty of meat to devour on its poignant bones!
The orphans in the title of playwright Lindsey Ferrentino’s drama are brother Jacob and sister Maggie. They come from a dysfunctional Jewish family and are on their way to a Memorial service for their late father on Long Island’s eastern town of Montauk. Jacob travels in from California and meets his frazzled sister at Laguardia Airport. There they begin to discuss how they will share this sad death with their brother, Andy, who has Down Syndrome. They pick up Andy and his aide Kathy at his group home. Andy was purposely separated from his family as a very young child to live in specialized housing with other Down Syndrome kids and medical attendants – isolated because doctors held out no hope for these children to ever become productive members of society. That was the erroneous feeling at the time. And times, and knowledge, have certainly changed.
Jacob and Maggie are afraid Andy will fall apart with the news – when, in fact, the orphans themselves are more unhinged than their brother. Andy lives with an aide, holds a job cleaning the popcorn machine at the local theatre, has a girlfriend he loves (Tina Turner), and loves to attend and devour movies. And, yes, he loves McDonalds hamburgers and fries.
On this road trip on the infamous, traffic-filled Long Island Expressway, Jacob and Maggie realize their brother has purpose and passion. He lives a successful and happy life on his own terms. He is content with his productive life, living in an accepting family community he calls home.
There are also deep, dark family secrets which are revealed as the drama unfolds. Edward Barbanell eloquently and humorously plays Andy. He is from Coral Springs, Florida, and has appeared in plays, movies and television for nearly two decades.
The ensemble cast is terrific. Jeffrey Bruce, originally from Long Island too, plays Jacob. He is the consummate eclectic actor and is a play director as well, in many local theatres.
Patti Gardner plays sister, Maggie. This is her third Primal Forces production and she has also appeared on most South Florida stages for the last thirty years. Jacqueline Laggy is Andy’s funny and assertive aide who goes on the family road trip.
Amber Lynn Benson is Sarah, the orphans’ mother, in a throwback drama-within-the drama,which explains much about the family dysfunction from the past.. Joey de la Rua plays Bobby, the orphans’ father, when he was a young father of three children.
Lindsey Ferrentino is the renowned playwright who brings life and emotional truths honoring people with Down syndrome. She is a talented playwright as well as a screenwriter on many projects.
Kudos to director Keith Garsson who thoughtfully and eloquently set up so many emotional scenes that amused and/or shocked the audience. He is the co-founder of Primal Forces, the resident theater company that presents this show. Jamie Cooper is his co-producer and stage manager.
The set was created by Tim Bennett, lighting by Guy Haubrich, costumes by Jerry Sturdefant and sound by David Hart.
You will definitely enjoy the grand finale monologue by movie lover Andy. The audience rose to cheer him and the play.
The Sol Theatre is located at 3333 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton Florida 33431. The phone number is 866-811-4111
Time-8pm Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm matinee Sundays
Photos: Amy Pasquantonio